Just three years after his release from federal prison, former Gov. Edwin Edwards is throwing his hat into the open race for Louisiana's 6th Congressional District.
The 86-year-old Silver Fox, known for his memorable, often shocking quotes and the nearly nine years spent behind bars on extortion, fraud and racketeering charges, made the announcement at a meeting of the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday (March 17).
"I acknowledge there are good reasons I should not run. But there are better reasons why I should," said the Democrat, who served an unprecedented four terms as governor. He also put to rest questions over whether his status as an ex-con would keep him from being a qualified Congressional candidate: "Once and for all I'm positive I can run and I'm confident I can win."
Edwards said the decision was not an easy one, but he ended up where he was "because I feel, I feel, that I can accomplish something if not immediately then in the long-run to help make my country a better country and properly address the needs of the 6th District."
It also wasn't the only race he grappled with entering, Edwards said Monday, making it clear he was at one point deciding whether to challenge U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a fellow Democrat, for her seat. The 6th District seat will be vacant this year because U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is challenging Landrieu.
"She's running her race and I'm running mine," said Edwards. Famously, there is no love lost between the two Democrats. But pundits agree the presence of each of their powerful campaign machines in Louisiana come November will be mutually beneficial for both.
"I'd like to run for governor, but there seems to be some question about whether I could," Edwards added. Louisiana law bars convicted felons from running for statewide office for 15 years, unless they receive a pardon. Edwards would be 101 by that time.
The Marksville native and arguably Louisiana's most famous Cajun told the assembled press and public Monday that he hopes to serve on the public works and agriculture committees in Congress to address oil and gas industry and infrastructure concerns pertinent to Louisiana.
On issues, he said he favors the approval of the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline and would like to spur along a study to look at securing funds for high-speed rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. He also said he's also been in touch with another famous Cajun -- Lt. Gen. Russel Honore -- to discuss his Green Army's environmental concerns regarding Baton Rouge's aquifer.
On the Affordable Care Act, Edwards said he would not have voted it if he had been in Congress at that time because "it is too fraught with pitfalls."
"(But) it is the law and we're going to have to deal with it at least until Obama is out of office," he added. Edwards did say, however, that he is in favor of the Medicaid expansion option available under the federal health care law known as Obamacare.
"I'm going to work in Congress in an effort to try to override the governor's decision," Edwards said, referring to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal's staunch refusal to opt into the expansion, under which around 242,000 uninsured Louisianians would be covered.
At one point, a member of the audience asked how he would respond to opponents who say his run will engender negative national attention and be "an embarrassment" for the state.
"They said that last time I ran for governor, and I don't know, I hardly think it is an embarrassment to the state. It might be something the state should be proud of because forgiveness, understanding and second chances are important in life and in politics," said Edwards.