Edwards: Dems need to be more moderate

Published 10:58 pm Monday, September 19, 2011

BATON ROUGE (AP) — As the Democratic Party seeks to rebound from a string of losses in Louisiana, former Gov. Edwin Edwards said Monday he has advised party leaders to shift to more moderate positions and persuade people that the party doesn’t advocate socialized government.

“We are not a giveaway party. We are a responsible party who likes to take care of the indigent and the aging and provide education for those who need it and want it. And while we are considered to be of the liberal side, it is only because we have a concern for the needs of people,” said Edwards, a stalwart of Louisiana’s Democratic Party for half a century before he was convicted of federal corruption charges.

The four-term former governor, who recently completed a more than eight-year prison sentence, spoke about politics and his legacy to the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

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Always quick with a joke, when asked how the Democratic Party can re-brand itself, Edwards first quipped, “Change the name.”

Democrats lost control of the state House and state Senate in the last year and didn’t attract any well-known, well-funded candidates for statewide office this fall, seeming to cede the races to Republicans.

GOP leaders say Louisiana is becoming rock-solid red and Democrats no longer represent the views of a majority of state residents.

Edwards said he believes the party will attract people in again. He compared politics in Louisiana and the nation to the swing of a pendulum, saying no one party stays victorious.

“I can remember when Newt Gingrich took over (in the U.S. House) and everybody thought the Republican Party was going to take over the country forever. But it was short-lived,” Edwards said.

Edwards can do nothing more than advise politicians, comment on the political scene and assist candidates. He remains on probation for a bribery and extortion scheme to rig riverboat casino licenses. He’s unable to run for elected office until 15 years after his sentence completion unless he is pardoned.

The former governor remains popular in the state, and he regularly tells groups that he could defeat current Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, if he had been able to run — a questionable assertion with Jindal’s high approval ratings in recent polls.

“I’m glad I can’t run. Because if I could have run, I would have run, and I would have won and then I’d have all these problems,” he joked about the state’s ongoing budget woes.