BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican David Vitter has turned to reality TV star Willie Robertson to try to help him move past a years-old prostitution scandal that has been revived in the Louisiana governor's race.
Robertson, one of the bearded men of "Duck Dynasty," is featured in Vitter's latest TV ad, which begins airing Thursday.
"I know he's made some mistakes, but who hasn't? The whole story of the Bible is about redemption. I'm concerned about our state," Robertson says, as he stands with Vitter in front of a vehicle, both men dressed in camouflage.
Vitter then ties his past scandal to the state's future.
"What defines us in life is how we get up and earn redemption. Where we are as a state is needing to get up, based on strong conservative principles and that's what I'm leading with," he says.
A U.S. senator, Vitter apologized in 2007 for a "serious sin" after he was linked through phone records to Washington's "D.C. Madam." Though he was re-elected to the Senate in 2010, the scandal again has become a point of attack in his bid to become Louisiana governor.
Democrat John Bel Edwards, the front-runner in the Nov. 21 runoff, recently ran an ad that said Vitter "chose prostitutes over patriots," missing a vote to honor soldiers because of a phone call from the prostitution service. And outside political groups have hammered Vitter on the scandal as well.
After months of dodging talk about the scandal, Vitter has tried to address the issue more directly as polls continue to show him trailing Edwards. Earlier this week, Vitter released an ad describing how he "failed my family but found forgiveness and love." He's never used the word prostitution, however, and he's never confessed to breaking the law.
Vitter's campaign touted the "Duck Dynasty," trying to capitalize off the local popularity of the TV show and the Robertson family. The 30-second spot will be on television statewide by the weekend.
In response, Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party said: "The governorship of Louisiana is not a reality TV show." He noted the prostitution scandal and allegations a private investigator working for Vitter's campaign secretly filmed the Jefferson Parish sheriff and others.
"Louisiana has had enough of the antics," Handwerk said in a statement. "The choice for integrity and honesty is clear. If it walks like a duck, talks like a duck, it's probably David Vitter, who will say or do anything but tell the truth."
Members of the "Duck Dynasty" family have gotten involved in Louisiana politics before. They've showered kind words and support on term-limited Gov. Bobby Jindal, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination.
They also supported Republican Vance McAllister and helped draw attention to the political novice's campaign when he ran for a northeast Louisiana-based U.S. House seat. McAllister won that election, but a cheating scandal destroyed his re-election hopes after less than a year in office and the Robertson family abandoned him in that 2014 campaign.