Crawfish and Candidates: GOP Senate Hopefuls Debate

Apr 4, 2016

L to R: Kennedy, Maness, Fleming, Boustany
Credit Sue Lincoln

The four Republican candidates vying for David Vitter’s U.S. Senate seat debated before a receptive crowd Saturday, as Americans For Prosperity hosted a crawfish boil in Baton Rouge.

“Do you like Obamacare?” Congressman Charles Boustany of Lafayette asked the crowd of about 300 people. 

After receiving a resounding, “No!”, he continued, “I’m a doctor, and I know what we have to do to get rid of Obamacare. And I’ve actually been introducing bills just this past week to stop that nonsense.”

Congressman John Fleming of Minden had a similar theme, saying, “I vote against a lot of this nonsense.” He also claimed credit for driving former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner out of office.

“There are folks on this stage that have done a lot of good work, but you can’t just be a good voter,” said retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness, who previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2014.

“What’s needed in Washington, D.C. is real world leadership, because the votes are not getting the job done.”

“There are many good members of the United States Congress, but I don’t think the American people can figure out what they’re good for,” observed State Treasurer John Kennedy. It was a comment he repeated a half dozen times during the course of the debate.

The candidates were quizzed about their stances on the federal deficit, the Import-Export Bank, and taxes. Of particular interest was a question about internet sales taxes, which Louisiana and the federal government are looking to implement through the Marketplace Fairness Act.

“Here’s my plan for what government ought to do with respect to the internet: leave it alone!” Kennedy thundered.

In contrast, the soft-spoken Boustany appealed to logic and the attendees’ wallets.

“I’m opposed to it because that is going to be very difficult to implement and it is anti-consumer,” he stated.

Fleming expanded on the theme of difficulty, saying, “It is impossible to implement. It means that every business would have to interact with 10-thousand different tax venues, and any or all of them could demand audits of those businesses. It’s nonsense.”

Maness took an absolutist view.

“I’m opposed to any new taxation,” Maness stated. “What I’m for, though, is a tax system that abolishes the IRS.”

That statement garnered the biggest and longest cheers of the debate, which encouraged Maness to continue, “I will abolish the Department of Education. I will abolish the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, and the Department of Labor!”

According to the organizers of the event, announced Democrats for the senate seat were also invited, but did not respond. Instead they attended the state Democratic Committee convention, held across town at the same time.