The first primary of the 1952 election was over. Defeated candidates were licking their wounds as surviving candidates prepared for the second primary. Still standing when the smoke cleared were: (I= Incumbent.)
Carlos Spaht vs. Robert Kennon for Governor, Clyde Caillout vs. Leonard Toups for Senator, (A.O. Rappelet was running for Governor) Frank Ducos (I) vs. Clinton Cheramie for Sheriff (Both South Lafourche natives), Max Rizan (I) vs. Dave Robichaux for Assessor Raoul Legendre (I) vs. Ambroise Landry for Clerk of Court, (Alvin Louviere and Jeanne Coulon had been eliminated) Dick Guidry and R.J. Soignet vs. Harvey Peltier, Jr. and Eugene Goaux for Representative. Dr. Philip Robichaux had been elected Coroner. The primary had been nasty, especially the Sheriff and Coroner races and predictions were that the second primary would be worse. The predictions were correct.
Crowds at rallies became massive and the candidates were in full combat mode, exchanging the usual jibs and jabs, smears and accusations, very common for the time...UNTIL:
The Times-Picayune broke a story about Earl Long distributing state insurance fees and policies among his supporters in the insurance business, some of whom were candidates in Lafourche.
The accused candidates refuted the allegations of illegality vigorously…. just conducting business as usual they claimed. Legal or not no one will ever know since charges were never brought up but in today’s vernacular it did not pass the “smell test”. The “All Parish” candidates knew a good political issue when they heard one and they lashed out at the recipients and the Governor’s favoritism. It was probably the cause of one candidate’s defeat. I don’t defend the action, after all I was opposed to Earl Long, but what Governor does not favor their supporters?
A few days later I woke up to a knock on my door, and in walked Clinton Cheramie, Dave Robichaux and Dick Guidry. Dave said, “We need a campaign song about the insurance check scandal” (his words) and I agreed.
A hit song of the day was “Shrimp Boats is a-coming”. I wrote new lyrics and called it “Insurance Checks is a-coming.”
Below is a sample in which I choose not to use names in this article because over the years, political alliances have changed, enemies became friends, tickets were abandoned for individual candidacies and the public frowns on those tactics today.
“Insurance checks is a-coming, the mail man’s in sight, insurance checks is a-coming there’s a shrimp boil tonight. Won’t you hurry, hurry Uncle Earl (insert accused) and (insert accused) want their checks to come in. (Insert accused) and (insert accused) are waiting the same.” On the flip side I used “Bye Bye (insert accused sheriff candidate) instead of “Bye Bye Black Bird,” a 1920’s hit song.
This was hardball politics and both sides played it. We recorded the songs at a small studio owned by a sound truck operator who was hired for the purpose of playing them all over the parish, but when he heard them it, he quit.
“I ain’t driving the truck with those songs! Somebody will get sued or shot,” he said and left. No one wanted to drive, so Dave Robichaux, who was footing the bill said, “I’ll drive the truck.”
The next day the truck had a millionaire driver rolling it all over the parish, even in front of the opposing candidates’ homes.
Today’s election campaigns are a shadow of their former selves; March breezes compared to yesterday’s hurricanes, dramatic events in an otherwise routine and sometimes dull life. Assessors and Clerks of Court are seldom challenged and in recent elections even a councilman and several school board members enjoyed a “free ride”.
Our Sheriff, Craig Webre, who has brought stability and order to the office is serving his present term after having been re-elected unopposed, which, in my research has not happened in over eighty years. Are campaigns less fun today? Some think so but a tough campaign is no fun for the candidate. My son Mike and I were certainly grateful for the three unopposed terms we both had as your Assessors. Though I will admit, those older days were certainly more exciting.
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Posted on Tue, June 9, 2015
by Leroy Martin, Contributing Writer