The PJ Tatler

Arson, Stealth Democrat Heat Up Obscure Louisiana Runoff Election

Most media eyes have stayed fixed on Louisiana’s Senate race, in which incumbent Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu looks likely to lose to GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy. With the runoff slated for Dec. 6, Cassidy leads in the polls, by a lot. Early voting has also heavily favored the Republicans, with turnout for the runoff actually exceeding early vote turnout for the Nov. 4 general election — on the Republican side only. Democrat early voter turnout is down.

Cassidy is expected to cruise to a win, as Democrat fortunes continue to wane across the country and especially in Louisiana. Whether Cassidy wins or loses, Republicans will control the Senate come January. Landrieu’s defeat, if that’s what transpires, will serve as a coda on the demise of Barack Obama’s Democratic Party.

The Bayou State, once a Democrat stronghold in the otherwise solidly Republican south, has in recent years joined its neighbors in the GOP coalition. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) represents the Republicans’ youthful conservative leadership in the changing state.

A ways down the runoff ballot, though, is the race for District 1 on the Louisiana Public Service Commission. The Nov. 4 three-way “jungle primary” finished with no candidate getting 50% of the vote. The top two vote-getters, Forest Bradley-Wright and incumbent Commissioner Erik Skrmetta, finished first and second with 38% and 37% respectively, so they face off in the Dec. 6 runoff.

All has not been peaceful since the Nov. 4 vote. On Nov. 6, an arsonist struck the home and cars of Mario Zervignon. Zervignon is the campaign treasurer for Bradley-Wright. HuffPo reported:

Eight people barely escaped the fire in Zervigon’s multifamily building. His car was torched, as was his wife’s. “Someone, whoever it was, did target him,” said Andrew Tuozzolo, a friend and colleague to whom Zervigon has referred media requests.

Since the fire, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives have been combing the Uptown neighborhood where Zervigon lived to determine who might be responsible. Investigators are treating the blaze as arson, having ruled out the possibility that it was accidental. On Monday, the agency announced that it was offering a $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case.

As of yet, there are no suspects in the blaze.

Part of the case’s complexity has to do with Zervigon’s involvement in a divisive political race. Moran has said investigators are interviewing not only Zervigon and neighbors, but also the campaigns of Bradley-Wright and his runoff opponent, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta.

Zervigon played a role in other campaigns this election cycle, but none was as fiercely contested as the Public Service Commission race. On Nov. 4, two days before the fire, Bradley-Wright forced the incumbent Skrmetta into a Dec. 6 runoff election. The two candidates, both Republicans, have quarreled fiercely over alternative energy.

Not only is the race divisive, one could argue that at least one aspect of it has been downright devious. Skrmetta is the incumbent Republican. Democrats have a very hard time winning much in Louisiana these days, as the state trends similarly to its gigantic neighbor, deep red Texas. Democrat branding is an albatross in much of Louisiana. Forest Bradley-Wright, the challenger, is also on the Republican ballot for the PSC slot.

But his identification with the Republican Party is of recent vintage.

Bradley-Wright switched parties just four weeks before launching his run for the LA Public Service Commission District 1. He switched from the damaged Democrat brand to the increasingly powerful Republicans.

Perhaps his switch was sincere. Or perhaps it was opportunistic.

It turns out that Bradley-Wright is part of something called the Alliance for Affordable Energy. He was the Utility Policy Director there. The group is anti-coal, which is still one of America’s cheapest, most abundant and most important energy sources. Basically, the Alliance for Affordable Energy is among the environmental groups that make energy less affordable by killing coal and advancing more expensive alternatives through government regulation. And they are another of the many Soros- and Tom Steyer-funded leftwing anti-fossil fuels special interest groups.

Because we are both a consumer watchdog and environmental advocacy organization, our policy work meets at the crossroads of social justice, sustainable economic development, and environmental protection.

Bold added to highlight the group’s lefty politics.

The Public Service Commission deals with public utilities — energy. The Alliance promotes solar energy, often through government mandates, that just happen to benefit solar manufacturers and their backers. Bradley-Wright has received donations from the solar industry, according to both HuffPo and the local media.

Campaign finance records show Wright received $79,450 in campaign contributions as of July 27, more than $71,000 of which came from businesses or individuals in the solar industry. The commission does not regulate the solar industry, though its decision can have an impact on demand for solar panels.

Even after his party switch, Bradley-Wright has drawn much of his campaign backing from Louisiana’s Democrat operative ranks, according to ClickJefferson, a Louisiana blog that is closely covering the race.

And in 2012, prior to whatever Road to Damascus moment that saw Bradley-Wright switch parties, he ran for Place 2 on the Public Service Commission — as an out-and-out Democrat. He lost to Republican Scott Angelle. Perhaps that defeat sparked the change of heart. Anyway, according again to ClickJefferson, Bradley-Wright doesn’t live in District 1 or 2, the one he is running in and the one he already lost in. He lives in District 3. A Democrat currently holds that seat.

Take the two runs together, then, and add the party switch and the residency issue and it appears that Forest Bradley-Wright is trying to gain the Democrats a seat on the key energy commission by stealth. The run as a Republican, then, would be a ruse.

Earlier I mentioned Tom Steyer, the leftwing hedge fund billionaire who is now bankrolling the Democrats and buying their environmental pledges along the way. Steyer is behind much of the national Democrats’ opposition to the Keystone Pipeline, which is widely supported in Louisiana. Sen. Landrieu recently tried to save herself by pushing a bill to authorize the Keystone’s construction, in the Senate. It was Cassidy’s bill in the House, where it passed, and Landrieu could not get the still Democrat-controlled Senate to approve it. Steyer is a huge part of the reason for that. His connection to Bradley-Wright is through the Energy Foundation, which has donated $220,000 to the Alliance for Affordable Energy over the past couple of years. The  Energy Foundation, in turn, receives grants from the TomKat Charitable Trust — $400,000 in 2012 and $1.65 million in 2011. Steyer sits atop the left’s green money empire, with folks like Bradley-Wright acting as satraps at lower levels, carrying out the emperor’s will.

Voters in Louisiana Public Service Commission District 1 get to decide the relevance of all this when they vote on December 6.