Vitter to Face Porn Actress in GOP Primary?

January 23, 2009

By Christopher Tidmore
Louisiana Weekly

They finally found a porn star to run against David Vitter.

An advertisement on the website Craigslist seems to imply that the search for a “female candidate with a history in the adult entertainment industry to challenge Senator Vitter” in the GOP primary has been fulfilled.

Several months ago, a curious ad went on the Internet swapshop page searching for a registered Republican woman with experience in some area of adult entertainment that would be willing to run against Vitter in the 2010 Republican Senatorial primary. It was a blatant attempt to dredge up media attention on the Senator’s past trysts with prostitutes for public view, both as a State Representative and later as a Congressman.

At first, many observers considered the ad a joke, yet indications came that the postings promises of financial compensation for a porn actress or exotic dancer to challenge Vitter were serious. Insiders within the Democratic Party began to admit that some senior members of the party were behind the plot. Sources within the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) began to express their approval and complicity with the idea.

Then, late on January 19, 2008, this posting was added to Craigslist, “Seeking Energetic Field Organizers for Senate Campaign (New Orleans)…After an exhaustive review process, we are announcing that we are no longer accepting applications for a female candidate with a history in the adult entertainment industry to challenge Senator Vitter. We want to thank all the talented candidates who applied and endured through our rigorous application process. We furthermore apologize for any inconveniences the applications or interviews may have caused. We are certain many of you will go on to achieve long and accomplished careers in public service, and wish you well in your future endeavors.”

The posting continued, “An announcement pertaining to the final results of our selection process is forthcoming. We are, however, now accepting applications for energetic and personable field organizers for our grassroots campaign. Past or current affiliation with a political party is unimportant, this is a bipartisan effort of civic minded citizens with a desire to change Louisiana and the nation.”

Organizers, the ad went on, should be at least 18 years old with two years of campaign experience, or put another way, WE HAVE FOUND OUR PORN STAR, AND SHE NEEDS A STAFF.

Several senior Democrats have admitted to The Louisiana Weekly that they relish the thought of Senator Vitter attempting to defend himself against charges of hypocrisy with socially conservative GOP primary voters as a sex worker dogs his steps.

In a story first broken by the author in The Louisiana Weekly in 2002, allegations were made by senior Republicans that Vitter, then a State Rep., had carried on a nine month affair with a known prostitute working under the alias Wendy Cortez at a French Quarter apartment at the corner of Dumaine and Dauphine Sts. Subsequently, this newspaper interviewed the lady in question, actual name Wendy Yow Ellis, about the details of the trysts, and why she came forward.

(She outlined a twice weekly meeting that ended when Vitter discovered that her real first name was Wendy, the same as his wife. She had used the alias Leah. Over a year later, as Vitter was running for Congress and campaigning in Lakeside Mall, Wendy Yow came up to him to say hello, and by her description, “he ran away as fast as he could”. She branded the State Rep. a hypocrite, and went to staffers of his GOP Congressional opponent Dave Treen to tell her tale. The former Governor, though, refused to allow the information to be made public. At the time, Wendy Yow refused any compensation for her story by supporters of Gov. Treen. Only after revelations were made that caused her to lose her certificate as an Accountant in Texas did she agree to be paid for her story by Hustler Magazine.)

Then, in the summer of 2007, Vitter’s phone number was found on a call list for the DC Madam Deborah Jane Palfrey by investigators for Hustler Magazine Publisher Larry Flint, leading to a public apology by Vitter but a refusal to admit that the now Senator was guilty of any further solicitations of prostitutes.

This that time, the Senator has refused to talk about the allegations, and for the most part, has kept a low public profile, at least until this past fall. Vitter very vocally challenged the first bailout package, and later, was one of the sole opponents to the appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State, moves set to appeal to his conservative base electorate.

In recent weeks, the Senator has hit the national conservative talkradio programs citing his opposition to several moves of the new Obama Administration, and in the words of host Laura Ingram, “becoming the leader of the conservatives in the Senate”.

Would the presence of a woman who has sex for money as a primary challenger endanger that new status, or could the gambit backfire?

As he rehabilitates his the reputation, the incumbent Junior Senator from the Pelican State has also become a target of opponents both within his own party and from the opposition.

Increasingly Republican Louisiana should list as full of safe re-election potential for a sitting GOP Senator, but Vitter is listed as the number one target of the National Democrats seeking to pad their majority beyond the possibility of a Senate filibuster. Vitter is considered weak enough that their has been an active attempt by New York Senator Chuck Schumer, Chairman of the DSCC, to recruit the Democrats strongest potential challenger Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-Napoleonville), the current Third District Congressman.

Hailing from Acadiana with a moderately conservative voting record, Melancon could influence centrist swing voters away from Vitter, so Schumer believes, and it is a truism of Louisiana politics that all things being equal, Cajuns vote for Cajuns. Social conservatives in Southwestern Louisiana, who have trended Republican in the last few cycles, may come home to the Democrats if a pro-life alternative from their community was a possibility.

Currently, Melancon has denied an interest in challenging Vitter despite outside pressure. If he should demur, the Democrats do have an alternative, Shaw Group CEO Jim Bernhardt. The head of Louisiana’s only Fortune 500 member that is not a public utility, Bernhardt is a loyal Democrat itching to spend millions of dollars to defeat Vitter, according to sources close to the corporate magnate.

Meanwhile Vitter has his opponents within the State Republican Party who worry that the incumbent might not be strong enough to win re-election. Their hopes center around GOP Secretary of State Jay Dardenne as a challenger to Vitter for the Republican nomination next year.

Dardenne has repeatedly expressed his interest in running, but has worried that considering Vitter’s continued popularity with Christian Conservatives, would he have a chance in the new created closed primary. As one friend of the Sec. State put it, “Jay would run in a second if there was an open primary, where everyone could vote. But, limit the vote to just Republicans, and he’s worried that Vitter may be able to carry it regardless.”

Whether the presence of a porn actress as the third challenger in the primary would make Dardenne more of less likely a candidate remains unknown, yet the embarrassment for Vitter would be acute.

Since the now infamous press conference where the Senator apologized for mistakes (but continued to deny there was any truth to the allegations of solicitation of prostitution in New Orleans), Vitter has avoided any conversation on the prostitute scandal or further defense of his name. Having the latest incarnation of Mary Carey as an opponent would mean that Vitter would have to confront his recent past publicly.

Interestingly, while the porn star would thrust the prostitute tale back onto the minds of independent swing voters, most of Vitter’s base is well aware of the details. One interesting scenario, that some have suggested, surrounds conservative voters rushing to Vitter’s defense.

As one senior Republican put it, “The porn star could just cause conservatives to become more motivated to vote, while the rest of the public just doesn’t care.”

Democrats hope that by branding Vitter a hypocrite so publicly, though, swing voters will.

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