A debate between Louisiana gubernatorial candidates John Bel Edwards (D) and U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) took a nasty turn Tuesday night when the two men used a question about campaign trackers to lob personal attacks at each other.
Vitter’s campaign hit a road bump last month when the powerful sheriff of Jefferson Parish, Louisiana arrested a private investigator who fled the cafe where the sheriff caught him recording a breakfast meeting. The gumshoe worked for an investigative agency hired by the Vitter campaign, which said it had sent the private eye to “research” an Edwards donor who attended the sheriff’s meeting.
During the debate, Vitter said his campaign had not directly hired campaign trackers. Edwards, a state representative, accused Vitter of lying about hiring trackers by classifying the money spent on retaining the investigative agency as “legal fees.”
“He’s actually sending private investigators to spy on the sheriff,” Edwards said. “There’s enough scandal and embarrassment here to last a lifetime. Louisiana doesn’t need any more of that.”
Vitter then accused Edwards of acting “holier than thou” while running tough negative ads, including one that invoked Vitter’s connection to the so-called “D.C. Madam” prostitution scandal.
“With respect to the negative ad, if it’s a low blow it’s only because that’s where you live, Senator,” Edwards said. “It’s 100 percent truthful. The fact of the matter isyou didn’t say it was untrue. You want me to take it down because you don’t like it. I understand that you don’t like it. It hits you where you live.”
Vitter charged that Edwards, a former Army Ranger, wasn’t “living by the honor code.”
“I am not looking at any video footage from you. I haven’t hired a private investigator to go after you … you’re a liar and you’re a cheater and you’re a stealer and I don’t tolerate that,” Edwards shot back.
Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.