86 is the new 60: Edwin Edwards, the Silver Fox, wants back in political arena

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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Edwin Edwards is known for his colorful quotes.

The former Democratic Louisiana governor, congressman and convicted felon once said they made Viagra from his blood. Another time he declared, “the only way I can lose this race is to be caught in bed with a live boy or a dead girl.”

But Edwards is also a political master, who, in the words of another former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer (the only person to every beat Edwards in an election), “can charm the socks off a rooster.” And the day after Edwards announced a bid for Congress, that charm is on, and, for now at least, talk of Viagra and being a “wizard under the sheets” is off.

“Look, I’m a very difficult person to understand,” Edwards told The Daily Caller in a phone interview Tuesday.

“I’m 86 years old, I’ve got a 35 year old wife that I married when she was 33, I have four children that are over 55 years old, one of them is 64, and I have a baby that’s 7 months old as I talk to you,” he continued. “That is very unusual and difficult for people to understand.”

Perhaps more difficult for people to understand is why an octogenarian, just three years out from an eight year stint in prison, would want to get back in the ring and run for the open congressional seat in Louisiana’s 6th District. The answer is simple: Edwards has got the bug.

“It’s my life, it’s in my life’s blood, it’s what turns me on, what makes me get up in the morning happy to be alive, and what makes me happy,” he says of why he wants to run at his age.

And the retirement that a lot of people might take at his age, Edwards said, is not for him.

“One of the reasons I’m running is cause I don’t want to be bored. I live in a golfing community. I’ve been here for three years, I’ve played golf one time, even though I like the game,” Edwards says. “’Cause you know, I just like being involved in political affairs.”

Edwards’ age comes up several times during our interview. Two of his (much younger) opponents have already started jabbing him over it. Republican Paul Dietzel III tweeted, “My focus is the future, not the politics of the past,” with the hashtag #NextGeneration after Edwards’ announcement. Another Republican contender, Garrett Graves, told WVUE New Orleans that he respected Edwards “as an elder.”

Edwards is clearly prepared for the jibes, and he brushes them off.

“Look, age is not a factor,” he says. “If this was a foot race, they’d probably all beat me. But this is a political race, and you can look for a different outcome.” Besides, he notes, he has good genes — his mother lived to 96 and his father lived to 100.

“If you look at me, I’m the new 60, even though I’m 86.”

The demographics of the district do not favor a Democrat, and Edwards is aware of that, but says he can overcome it.

“Well, all politicians are optimists, you know,” he laughs.

“If you look at just raw numbers that’s probably an accurate assessment. However, I can tell you that I have a lot of Republican friends who will vote for me; they are kind enough and smart enough to vote for the person who can best do the job, and they disregard the labels,” he said.

One of those Republicans is his wife, Trina, and Edwards points to their marriage as “symbolical” of the how Republicans and Democrats might be able to accommodate themselves to one another and vote for Edwards.

Not on that list is Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards would prefer to be running for governor instead of Congress, he said, but there are some legal issues that bar him from running for some time after finishing his stint in prison. But he said he does not envy the next governor.

“I tell you what, by the time this governor gets through messing up the state, whoever gets it is gonna be a sick MF,” Edwards said.

He launches into a criticism of Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is known to do a lot of out of state traveling, as chairman of the Republican Governor’s Association, and now as he appears to be contemplating a presidential bid.

“Well, when I was governor for 16 years, I wanted to be governor of Louisiana,” Edwards said. “I was here, I took care of business, the budget was in balance, we provided pay raises for people and civil servants. When there was a problem, Edwin Edwards was here to get it done and solved – they didn’t always like what I did, but I was here. I wasn’t trying to be governor of California or Minnesota or Florida; this man seems to want to be governor of any state except Louisiana. And I think it’s showing in his rather dismal popularity ratings.”

There is no love lost between Edwards and the man who could be the next Louisiana Governor, Republican Sen. David Vitter, who announced his intention to run earlier this year.

“Well I have mixed emotions about that. One, I kind of hope he wins because he’ll be miserable for four years trying to deal with the problems left to him by the present governor,” Edwards said. “On the other hand, I don’t think he’s for the people of Louisiana, and I don’t like his quote family values platform when he’s leading the kind of life he is, and I just think that’s hypocritical.” In 2007, Vitter’s phone number was among those released in the records of the DC Madam. He acknowledged “a very serious sin in my past,” and left it at that.

Edwards, on the other hand, fiercely denies the corruption charges that sent him to prison for over eight years.

“I was unfairly convicted,” he said. “The government’s tried four times to convict me. In the three cases where there was an impartial judge, they couldn’t get anywhere with it. In this particular case, the judge was totally committed to getting me convicted, even kicking off a juror who was leading the effort to get me acquitted, because he didn’t want me acquitted.”

“Now I’m not gonna spend my time trying to convince people I was innocent,” Edwards went on. “I do want to say this: I was not convicted for anything having to do with my role as governor. Let me repeat that: it had nothing to do with my role as governor. I was not charged with bribery; I was not charged with using my influence unfairly; I was not charged with taking anything from the taxpayers.

The people who testified against him, he said, were former friends, who did so because “they were urged by the federal prosecutors to come up with some cockamamie story to try to get me convicted.”

Edwards describes his time in prison as just one more reason he ought to be elected to Congress.

“I didn’t whine or complain,” he said. “I did what I could to make life easier for my fellow inmates.”

He helped his fellow inmates out with legal issues using his legal skills as an attorney, and his access to typewriters and the internet as “chief librarian.” He “walked the track with some of them that was in desperation because their wives were leaving them or they had problems back home — I tried to console them.” He also “helped some of them get their GEDs.”

“I was working with others when my term expired, and I didn’t want to wait around to see if they succeeded,” he said, adding: “I hope they did.”

“I’m very comfortable with my life,” Edwards said. “I’ve made mistakes like most people do, I’ve apologized for them when I’ve made them, and I’ve tried to make it right. I’ve taken care of my family, people know where I stand, I answer the telephone. I must have done something wrong because in 26 elections, run offs and primaries, only one time was I not the lead vote getter in the campaign.”

Is Washington ready to have the Silver Fox back in the chamber?

“Well,” Edwards laughs, “Yes. Because I make things more interesting for them.”

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