Vitter’s Appearance at Fourth of July Concert Creates Political Dissonance

Posted July 3, 2010 at 9:58am

There’s nothing unusual about Members of Congress fanning out across their states and districts this weekend to participate in a host of Fourth of July events.

But Republican Sen. David Vitter’s scheduled appearance at a Fourth of July concert in Lafayette, La., has set off political fireworks.

According to the Advertiser newspaper in Lafayette, local and state Democrats are howling about Vitter’s plans to speak during the Acadiana Symphony Orchestra’s Red, White and Boom concert Sunday evening, which will feature music and fireworks. Vitter is seeking re-election this year.

“Any public appearance by a candidate during the campaign season is inherently political,” the Lafayette Parish Democratic Executive Committee wrote in a letter to the symphony. “We question why the ASO would allow itself to be used for political purposes.”

The symphony’s top official told the newspaper in Saturday’s edition that the nonprofit group did not intend to politicize a patriotic community event.

“We did not invite him,” ASO Executive Director Jenny Krueger said of Vitter. “He contacted us and said he wanted to be a part of the program. Anybody is welcome to appear. Our organization as a whole strives to be politically neutral.”

But Louisiana Democrats aren’t satisfied.

The ASO “told me that Sen. Vitter assured them his comments would be patriotic, not political, but that’s naive in an election year. It’s laughable,” said Lester Gauthier, vice chairman of the Lafayette Parish Democrats.

Vitter’s office did not respond to the newspaper’s requests for comment Friday.

Vitter is favored to win a second term this November over Rep. Charlie Melancon (D).

“I assure you, there are Democrats in the city and the parish,” Gauthier said. “Rep. Charlie Melancon … has the support of prominent people in the city.”

But Gauthier said he was not insisting that Melancon be given an opportunity to speak at the concert.