Prime-time gubernatorial debate ends like daytime tabloid show
BATON ROUGE - Political arguing over records became a spirited tête-à-tête where debate moderators had to sternly warn candidates for Louisiana governor to follow procedures.
The emotional discussion came in the last five minutes of one of two televised debates between Republican David Vitter and Democrat John Bel Edwards. The debate was on LPB and originated from the public television studios on Perkins Road. The tense moments came when the debate shifted to a news conference earlier in the day by Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand who addressed the arrest of a person he called a spy for Vitter.
The person arrested is a private investigator and Normand said he caught him recording conversations he and his friends were having in a coffee shop in the New Orleans area the day before the primary. Robert Frenzel was arrested after running and trying to hide on private property, Normand said.
Vitter called the situation "silly" and, during the debate, said it was no different than "trackers" hired by most campaigns to follow candidates and record them at events.
Vitter and Edwards disagreed on the use of "trackers."
"The state Democratic Party does it on your behalf," Vitter said to Edwards. "You act holier-than-thou, [saying] 'oh, we don't do negative campaigning.' When, in fact, you have the most vicious negative ad up right now," Vitter continued.
"With respect to the negative ad, if it is a low blow, it is because that's where you live, Senator," Edwards fired back. "You didn't say it was untrue. You want me to take it down because you don't like it."
Seconds later, both men began to speak over each other, calling each other liars and continuing to fire off remarks as moderators attempted to interject. Eventually, the fuss ended with LPB CEO Beth Courtney exclaiming "Gentlemen!"
After the debate, Vitter walked to his car and answered questions about the tracking incident.
"[The sheriff] would jump at the opportunity to file some sort of criminal charge. He's talking on and on about this for political reasons," Vitter said.
In the studio, Edwards offered post debate analysis by calling the situation a scandal.
"I believe it shows he is unfit for office," Edwards told a group of reporters, including WBRZ's Brittany Weiss.
The election is November 21st. Early voting ends Saturday.
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