Businessman Eddie Rispone was fortunate to have a friendly crowd last Thursday, as he started making the organizational luncheon circuit in his gubernatorial campaign. Speaking to the East Baton Rouge Republican Women, the 70-year-old Republican remarked, “I have to remember I’m speaking to conservatives, ladies, Republicans, and half my family is here today. So I can say what I want about our Governor.” And he generated some appreciative laughter from the luncheon group.
He was fortunate to have that uncritically receptive partisan audience, for his campaign platform – at least as he’s iterating it now – boils down to “the Governor ticked me off by not doing what my friends and I want, so we’re going to replace him.”
Campaign Content: A Big Goose Egg
It was an unexceptional speech; light on policy proposals, though heavy on the sense of being slighted by – and unappreciated by – the current resident of the Governor’s mansion.
Rispone said his first major problem with John Bel Edwards was when “the governor, in his first session, tried to cut $4-million out of the Louisiana Scholarship Program.” Having been a huge supporter of former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s education reforms, and the voucher program in particular, Rispone admits he took it personally.
“That’s not a governor that’s going to put the children first,” Rispone said in his speech. “Mothers were so upset that several of them went on TV in New Orleans and Baton Rouge to say, ‘Governor, you lied’. And God taps me on the shoulder and says, ‘Hey, Eddie, what are you going to do about the children? What about them?’”
What Eddie did, of course, was arrange and pay for the ads that put those moms on TV. He didn’t mention that part to the lunch crowd, though, nor that – ultimately – the voucher program’s funding has remained intact.
“Eating the Goose That Lays the Golden Eggs”
Bad enough that the governor messed with what Rispone believes to be his mission from God, but then John Bel messed with Eddie’s business and his buddies’ businesses – without seeking their permission first.
“Over a year ago, the governor came out with an executive order, completely throwing ITEP into chaos,” Rispone said. “Complete chaos – jobs delayed, expansions delayed. We lost like 400 jobs in just my company.”
“He had met with the president of the Louisiana Chemical Association the day before, and he never mentioned it to Greg Bowser – never mentioned it! He didn’t sit down and talk it over with any of us first,” Rispone said, clearly referring to his fellows within the Erector Set, and their extended affiliations via LABI and Associated Builders and Contractors. “That’s a governor who does not appreciate job creators! He takes us for granted. Well, I’m going to tell you, that’s like eating the goose that lays the golden eggs!”
Then he quipped, “John Kennedy would be proud of me for that one!” before he continued his complaint.
“Job creators have to know their governor listens to them and appreciates them. I won’t be a governor who changes things like ITEP, based on what a socialist group – like Together Louisiana, Together Baton Rouge – wants.”
Later on, in a question-and-answer session following the speech, Rispone returned to this theme three more times. At one point he stated, “The governor is a career politician. They don’t think like we do, guys. For people like him and those in groups like Together Louisiana, it’s all about, ‘How can I get more votes and how can I feed more people?’ That’s not a governor that we want to have.”
Let’s pause a moment here, and reflect on the apparent disconnect. Rispone says God speaks to him, and there’s the New Testament story of Jesus feeding the multitudes with five loaves and two fishes. Yet Rispone implies that feeding more people is a negative thing, and not something “we want” a governor to try and do.
There’s another major disconnect, as well: Rispone addressing the crowd comprised primarily of Republican women as “guys”. In and of itself, not a major faux pas – but here’s what else he did and said along those lines…
“The women in this state are going to elect the next governor,” Rispone stated in his speech, adding, “Particularly the Republican women!”
For this, he received applause. And the first part of his statement certainly has the potential of truth. Fifty-four percent of all registered voters in Louisiana are women.
Yet while he acknowledged women’s strength of numbers for the voting booth, in the next sentences, he characterized women as weak, albeit in what seemed to be a nice request.
“Now I’m going to ask you to keep Linda (his wife), our daughters, and our grandchildren in your prayers. This is a lot to ask of them, because they’re going to hear some things about me that are not kind or true. I’m fine. I have thick skin after more than 40 years in business. But keep them in your prayers,” he asked.
Bless your heart, Eddie.
And when they opened things up for questions from the audience, made up of 95% women, would you like to guess who Rispone called on first, and most? That’s right – the dudes in suits. Five of the eight questions allowed were from men in the audience, and Rispone answered them expansively. He even called on each of the men by name: two were East Baton Rouge Metro Council members, two were from LABI, and one was disgraced former Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who resigned under the cloud of a sexual harassment lawsuit.
(Schedler’s question, about Rispone’s stance on Medicaid expansion, generated this response: “I don’t know the details, but I’m looking into it. I do know that when it was put in place in 1965, it was for the elderly – who could no longer work – and the handicapped, who couldn’t work at all.” [That’s MediCARE, Eddie.] “But we just keep expanding it, for all the wrong reasons.”)
Two of the questions from women were met with the same answer: “I don’t know where to start with that, but you can start by going to my campaign website.”
The last question, from a lady, did get a more elaborate response, as she asked, “Where do you fit with President Trump?”
Get a Gander at This
“A handful of us supported President Trump in a very large way when he was a candidate. I’ve met with him, and his policies and my policies are right on track with each other – right on track,” Rispone said. “Our style might be different – a little.”
Rispone’s policy plans, as stated at this event, are thin on substance, but sound very much like what we heard from Trump on the campaign trail, and have seen implemented during his time in the White House.
“We are going to recruit the best talent we can find to head up these agencies. We’re going to get the talented people,” Rispone says. “We’re going to get people in there to work with me, to do it right, to be effective and efficient.”
And, he says, he intends to – in essence – get what he’s been paying for all these years.
“For the last 25 years, I’ve put plenty of resources and effort in electing good conservative legislators. I’ve never asked anything of them other than to do what’s right. Now I’m going to work with them to make some changes in the laws and also in the constitution.”
In other words, if elected, they — and we — will do it his way.
That sounds like a wild goose chase.