Friday, July 13, 2007

More Republican Politicians Embrace Scandalized U.S. Senator Vitter


The scandal surrounding Sen. David Vitter is sparking a partisan fight as the state Democratic Party chairman called Vitter an "embarrassment" and Republicans rallied behind their embattled senator.

For his part, Vitter remained out of sight Thursday, the third straight day of hiding since he acknowledged on Monday that his telephone number appeared on the list of a woman accused of running a prostitution ring.

"Rather than proving to be a leader, he's proving to be an embarrassment," Chris Whittington, the state Democratic chairman, said on Thursday night.

Whittington also said Vitter's "actions and remaining time in seclusion show his blatant disregard for his duties in the Senate by missing votes."

Julie Vezinot, Whittington's spokeswoman, said the state Democratic Party would start a petition calling for Vitter's resignation on Friday.

Meanwhile, several prominent Republicans came out in support of Vitter after largely keeping mum, although one of the party's most high-profile members, Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-La., was not among them. Jindal is running for governor.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-La., said Vitter was "doing the right thing taking some time to be with his family" and added that "we can't forget about all the positive things David has done for the state of Louisiana."

U.S. Representative Rodney Alexander (R.-LA)

Rep. Jim McCrery, R-La., sounded a similar forgiving tone and called Vitter "an effective senator." Statements in support also came from state Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Metairie, Jay Dardenne, the secretary of state, and Jim Donelon, the insurance commissioner.

Louisiana state representative Steve Scalise

U.S. Representative Jim McCrery (R.-LA)

Louisiana Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, wife Cathy McDonald Dardenne, and sons John and Matt

Louisiana state insurance commissioner Jim Donelon

In the same batch of statements sent out by Republicans late Thursday, former Gov. David Treen, who once ran against Vitter in a bitter congressional race, stopped short of supporting the senator.

His read: "Any talk of David Vitter resigning or me being appointed to his Senate seat is ridiculous. It's just not going to happen."

Reached at home by telephone, Treen declined to elaborate on his terse statement.

Elliott Stonecipher, a political analyst, said partisanship is "the next leg of the story" because Vitter's indiscretions were well-known among operatives from both parties and now both factions will try to use the scandal to suit their ends.

Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette, said that Vitter could benefit if his troubles turn into a partisan duel.

"That will clearly play in his favor because that would seem piling on," Cross said. But, he added, "the Democrats are clearly sensing blood in the water. There's an opening here if Vitter decided to resign."