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|Why Ater won't run|
Since former Secretary of State Al Ater of Ferriday says he won't be a candidate for governor this fall, the state Democratic Party literally has no one to turn to if it harbors any serious intentions of fielding a candidate to oppose Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Now 57 years of age, Ater most likely was the only candidate the Democrats had on their radar who could possibly piece together a viable campaign to give Jindal a run for his money.
According to Ater, a number of well-placed Democrats talked to him about opposing Jindal. Ater says he was approached "because they think I'm rich and I can write a check to finance a campaign, and that's simply not the case. I've got to work like everyone else."
Make no mistake, Ater is wealthy, but he's not wealthy enough to discard of $5 million of his own money to seriously challenge an incumbent Republican governor who's sitting on $9 million in his campaign account. That's $9 million today, which could easily evolve into no less than $10 million for Jindal to spend on the fall election.
Let's not forget that Louisiana has been trending Republican over the past 10 years, and on the surface, it appears conservatism is a popular label these days. For now.
Though Ater is a Democrat, he's no liberal. Anyone who knows him knows that well. After all, Ater voted for John McCain in the 2008 presidential race, and he's of the opinion that Barack Obama has done a terrible job as president.
"He's (Obama) in over his head," Ater says.
I couldn't agree with him more.
By claiming the only reason he was approached about running for governor was because those well-placed Democrats "think I'm rich," Ater sold himself short. He was approached because Ater is as knowledgeable as or more knowledgeable about state government than anyone serving in a state-wide elected capacity today. He also was approached about running because Ater has always exhibited a unique ability to communicate with voters from all walks of life – rich, poor, black, white and everything and everyone in between. He honed those skills when he served in the state House of Representatives from 1984-1992.
Back in those days, or when Ater was a member of the House, he voted a number of tax measures that would come back to haunt him in any election in today's environment. He was close to then-Gov. Edwin Edwards, too.
Yet, there's another reason why an Ater for Governor campaign would be a long shot.
It's because Big Al has become a bit too honest these days. Too honest in verbally communicating why we have the problems we have in all levels of government and what it would take to lift us out of it.
"We all still want to believe in the Tooth Fairy, and we all want to believe in Santa Claus," Ater says. "Unfortunately, there's no such thing as a free lunch."
Honesty is a trait often reflected in good men. Women, too.
And Ater has always been honest with me. Maybe a bit too honest for own his good in the political world.
In many ways, it's a shame Ater won't oppose Jindal, whose re-election campaign this fall could very well serve as nothing more than a warm-up, so to speak, for a campaign for president.
It would be a doozy, all right, with Jindal the aspiring Republican on one side of fence, and Ater, the wealthy Democratic businessman, on the other side, applying the heat. We certainly would be entertained by a lively exchange concerning what's best for Louisiana.