Louisiana’s next gubernatorial election is well over a year away, but U.S. Sen. John Kennedy might have gotten the race fully cranked up this month when he called publicly for Gov. John Bel Edwards to resign.
It was a preposterous suggestion, of course, that was based on Kennedy’s obvious interest in running for the office and the huge philosophical gap between the political positions of the Republican senator and the Democrat governor. Kennedy, who claims he has not decided whether to challenge Edwards in the 2019 election, used the gridlock in the legislature over budget issues to conclude that the governor needs to step down and turn state government over to Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser. That standoff has resulted, in part, from efforts among leaders in the Republican-controlled legislature to keep Edwards from gaining what they consider a political victory by obtaining revenues to help offset a $650 million decline in state income.
The senator was well aware of those political dynamics when he tossed out the recommendation for Edwards to step aside in favor of Nungesser, but Kennedy was probably not expecting the lieutenant governor’s response. Nungesser, also a Republican who could have taken advantage of the opportunity to pile on the Democrat governor, said he liked the job he has and plans to run for re-election next year. Nungesser has also supported Edwards’ efforts to avoid cuts to state agencies. If Kennedy was trying to get some favorable media attention, that strategy failed miserably.
The Baton Rouge Advocate stated in an editorial, “Even by U.S. Sen. John Kennedy’s typically low standards of political theater, this is dumb stuff.” The editorial also said Kennedy “typically favors sound bites over serious policy discussions.” Another columnist wrote that Kennedy “finally lost all credibility when he declared that John Bel Edwards should step down.” Kennedy, who is clearly interested in replacing Edwards next year even if he has not officially declared his candidacy, might have been shaken by new polls showing that the Democrat governor still has high favorable ratings even in this deep red Republican state.
The recent survey shows Edwards has a 55 percent favorable rating with just 31 percent of voters expressing disapproval. The poll also shows that he would beat Kennedy in a head-to-head race. Kennedy’s ludicrous proposal for Edwards to resign is just plain old political maneuvering for the next gubernatorial race which is unquestionably under way.