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Hanna: Sling mud because it works

If you’re an observer of Louisiana politics, it doesn’t get much better than this.

It’s election season. Qualifying for local and statewide races got under way Tuesday, the day after Labor Day. The primary election is Oct. 24, or less than seven weeks from today.SAM HANNA

Though the calendar tells us fall is just around the corner, the temperature out and about is still hot, which is fitting since the governor’s race is heating up, too. We’ve seen signs of it with the Super PAC aligned with Sen. David Vitter’s campaign airing the first negative TV ad of the cycle. It was a rather subdued spot, as far as Vitter’s standards are concerned, aimed at Jay Dardenne’s and Scott Angelle’s records on taxes.

The commercial, paid for by The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, claimed Dardenne, a Republican like Vitter and Angelle, championed tax increases more than a decade ago as a member of the state Senate. Angelle, according to the commercial, supports imposing a tax on sales transacted via the Internet.

Angelle’s campaign quickly dismissed the Internet tax allegation and noted that Vitter, as a member of the state House of Representatives, voted in favor of levying a tax on Internet sales in 1994 when Edwin Edwards was governor. The tax, in other words, has been on the books for more than 20 years.

Obviously the fact checkers at The Fund for Louisiana’s Future dropped the ball. Or perhaps they felt Angelle’s rebuttal would be dismissed as simply a candidate covering his own hind side in the face of criticism.

Regardless, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future erred on the side of wrong.

Vitter’s camp, including the pro-Vitter Super PAC, isn’t the only election operation engaging in a little mudslinging.

The Super PAC supporting Angelle’s campaign, Louisiana Rising PAC, took Vitter to task over his campaign’s recent commercial staking out his opposition to Common Core. A highly toxic subject in public education, opposing Common Core is a must if a candidate hopes to attract support among hard-core conservatives. That would be Vitter’s base, which must turn out in droves on election day for Vitter to earn a spot in the November run-off.

Louisiana Rising PAC’s ad claimed Vitter’s position on Common Core flip-flops. In other words, the commercial alleged Vitter, as a member of the U.S. Senate, has a track record of supporting Common Core but candidate for governor Vitter opposes it.

Vitter’s campaign, of course, paid lip service to the attack, which tells us Vitter didn’t take it seriously or didn’t feel the attack warranted a strong rebuttal. Or Vitter’s brain trust could be hoping the issue just goes away before voters pay close attention to it.

We’ll see far more and far worse in negative TV commercials before this election cycle winds down on Nov. 21.

As Vitter’s campaign manager, Kyle Ruckert, recently said, “It’s the silly season.”

Indeed it is. It’s also the mudslinging season.

Unfortunately, it’s the silly and the mudslinging that move voters, and in this election, the silly or the mudslinging, or a combination of both, will determine which Republican candidate for governor makes the run-off and eventually takes office in early January.

Stay tuned. Enjoy. And hopefully we all don’t become so cynical over the next seven weeks that we choose not to vote at all.

Sam Hanna is a state political writer.

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