First political race left LaPlace woman stunned

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Breech calls flyer ‘low down, dirty trick’



LAPLACE – O.J. Breech leaned back in the front office love seat and sighed, &#8220I need a week off.”

That was the general conclusion to a hard fought campaign that concluded just over a week ago, when she entered her first political campaign, seeking a rather lofty goal of Third District U.S. Representative of the United States.

Breech was a novice to be sure, deciding to run for the House of Representatives against two veteran politicians. Incumbent Charles Melancon (D) and Louisiana Senator Craig Romero (R) were the front runners in a four person field, but Breech began to gather votes in the pre-election polls from what she said was a hard grass roots campaign.

&#8220I had to go grass roots since I wasn’t known like the others,” she explained. &#8220And I went all over.”

But by the time her campaign was over, which saw Melancon win re-election with 55 percent of the vote, and Breech finish with 3 percent, the LaPlace businesswoman said she was more shocked than she expected to see how tough a political campaign can get.

&#8220I suppose the biggest thing I learned through all this is that I’m way too decent for politics,” she said with a laugh. &#8220I need to get some more cut throat in my back pocket.”

Breech, 36, was especially bothered by the fact the front runners seemed to ignore herself and one other newcomer to the race, who did not have the name recognition of Romero and Melancon.

&#8220I thought it was arrogant of Romero and Melancon to think this campaign was just about them,” she said. &#8220They spent their campaign attacking each other. It just shows Louisiana politics has gotten to be all about the candidates, and not about the issues.”

Breech was determined to meet the people, and spread herself out in the very large Third Congressional District, going as far south as Plaquemines Parish, and all the way west towards Lafayette.

She said it was the response from the government to Hurricane Katrina that made her get in the race, then even more things she saw in her campaigning that made her get upset.

&#8220Katrina made me want to run. After the hurricane the regular people needed to get the money, and yet for all the billions sent down here, there is still so little done,” she said. &#8220I don’t just blame Representative Melancon, I blame all our legislators in Washington for letting this happen. They have the power to fix this. From what I saw about the incompetence after Katrina, you would have to practice to be that stupid. I’m not calling the people stupid, but the system at least.”

She was appalled when she went to Plaquemines Parish and saw 450 FEMA trailers all grouped together, with four to five people living in each one. And she said that wasn’t the only trailer park like that.

&#8220These candidates should have gone out and seen what I saw,” she said. &#8220I mean, I can’t say I know for sure who they met, but I went to every parish and this race should have been about all the races, and all levels of income, not just the rich people where Romero and Melancon were at.”

But the thing that really stunned Breech more than anything was the day before the election, when she said Romero distributed a flyer with her picture on it, trying to get anyone to vote for Breech or Romero, just so Melancon wouldn’t get over 50 percent and avoid a runoff with Romero, who came in a strong second.

&#8220The flyer used the fact that I was a black, businesswoman to try to get blacks to vote for me,” she said. &#8220But instead, I got so many calls from people upset that I was being put on this flyer with Romero. I even got a call from the NAACP. It was a low down dirty trick, and it ruined me.”

Breech claims her polls showed her with 16 percent of the vote before the flyer came out, before she ended up getting only 3 percent of the vote. Final totals showed Melancon with 55 percent, Romero with 40 percent, Breech with 3 percent and James Blake with 1.5 percent.

&#8220Romero just wanted anyone to vote for me or him, to keep Melancon from 50 percent,” she said. &#8220It ruined me.”

Romero did not return phone calls this week in response to the flyer.

With her first election past, Breech was still trying to catch her breath while reorganizing things at her LaPlace business, &#8220A Silent Partner,” which is a business consulting firm that helps other companies manage any aspect of their business.

&#8220I would run again,” she said with a long breath. &#8220Only because it’s necessary. But I sure learned a lot about politics this time, and it wasn’t very nice to see.”