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Kennedy would have been formidable obstacle to re-election of Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards
♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor
WASHINGTON (CFP) — U.S. Senator John Kennedy will not run for Louisiana’s governorship in 2019, opting not to make what would have been a formidable challenge to Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards’s prospects for re-election.
“It is such an honor to represent the people of Louisiana in the United States Senate. Right now, that’s where I think I can do the most good,” he said in a December 3 statement announcing his decision.
The outspoken Kennedy also offered a blistering critique of the condition of state government back in the Pelican State.
“I hope someone runs for Governor who understands that Louisiana state government does not have to be a big, slow, dumb, wasteful, sometimes corrupt, spend-money-like-it-was-ditchwater, anti-taxpayer, top down institution,” he said.
“I love Louisiana as much as I love my country, and the people of my state deserve a state government as good as they are.”
Kennedy, who has won six statewide elections, was the most prominent name among Republicans considering the governor’s race, and his decision not to run is good news for Edwards, who is trying to win re-election as a Democrat in an increasingly Republican state.
The only Republican in the race so far is Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham of Alto has also said he is considering entering the contest and will announce his decision by January 1.
Kennedy, 67, was elected to the Senate in 2016 on his third try after a long career in state politics. He spent 17 years as state treasurer and served in the administrations of governors Buddy Roemer and Mike Foster. He switched parties from Democrat to Republican in 2007, while treasurer.
During his time in the Senate, Kennedy has become known as one of the chamber’s most quotable members, offering often blunt and colorful analogies.
He once described Facebook’s behavior as “getting into the foothills of creepy,” and after sexual harassment charges rocked Hollywood, said that he didn’t know how movies were getting made “because it looks like they’re all busy molesting each other.”
Taking issue with the practice of credit reporting companies to charge consumers for protecting their information, Kennedy said, “I don’t pay extra in a restaurant to prevent the waiter from spitting in my food.”
Edwards, 52, won the governorship in 2015 by defeating then-U.S. Senator David Vitter, and is the only Democrat to hold a governorship in the Deep South. Kennedy was then elected to Vitter’s seat.
In the 2015 campaign, Edwards benefited from the unpopularity of the outgoing Republican governor, Bobby Jindal, as well as personal issues surrounding Vitter, who publicly admitted to patronizing prostitutes.
This time around, Republicans will make Edwards’s record the issue, including tax hikes and Medicaid expansion that he pushed through the legislature and a controversial program to reduce prison sentences for non-violent offenders.
In Louisiana, all candidates for governor run against each other in a so-called “jungle” primary in October, with the two top vote-getters advancing to a November runoff if no one gets a majority. The Republican field will most likely be competing for the second spot against Edwards.
Louisiana is one of four states that elect governors in off years. Neighboring Mississippi will also have a governor’s election in 2019.