The odd musical chairs that comes about every four years in Louisiana, only accelerated by the introduction of legislative term limits that first took hold in the 2007 election cycle, again has elected officials positioning themselves to abandon current offices in seek of higher/different callings later this year, with dominoes falling as a result.
The gubernatorial term limitation already has the current lieutenant governor, a current Public Service Commissioner, and a state representative ready to rumble for that office (and a sitting U.S. senator). For the vacated lieutenant governor’s post, a big-city mayor, a recently-retired parish president, a continuing parish president, and a state senator have pledged they’ll run. A former congressman looks to take on the current attorney general for that post. None are term limited.
Regardless of limits, potential candidates often feel an imperative to run for something for other reasons of timing. They may feel if they aspire to such an office if they wait longer they may get too old to run effectively, or that the near-term dynamics of the contest may be less favorable to them in the future than in the present.
But term limitation definitely seems to impact the expression of House of Representatives Speaker Chuck Kleckley for running for state treasurer. Limited in the House, if he wants to keep a full-time gig in politics, statewide elected office is the only place he can head as of now (or perhaps at the local level as Lake Charles mayor). However, that would put him up against the most stalwart of current officeholders, Treasurer John Kennedy who is completing his fourth term – if it weren’t for the fact that Kennedy is thinking of fleeing that post for attorney general.
Kennedy is a two-time frustrated Senate candidate but a move such as this also would meant he twice went for attorney general, having run in 1991 but getting edged out of the runoff. Having been a top official in the office of former Gov. Buddy Roemer, he later caught on as Secretary of the Department of Revenue before claiming the Treasurer’s spot in 1999. A lawyer by training, this quest would represent nothing new to Kennedy.
Yet it might be as quixotic a quest as what he seemingly had been gearing up to do, run for governor. Kennedy is more a populist than principled conservative and could have slid into that slot in that contest, except that candidate Sen. David Vitter has the unusual ability to attract votes from both of these wings of the party. But that spot for attorney general may be taken already by former Rep. Jeff Landry as he battles Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell. While both are Republicans, Caldwell is a relatively recently switcher and some of this actions in office have tended to support agendas and interests more typically aligned with Democrats.
Kennedy also switched parties in 2007, after his 2004 Senate run where he tried to position himself as a liberal. If no Democrat gets into the race, it’s possible that he could wedge himself between the other two unless he returns to his roots by adding a swath of liberal populism to his arguments that might squeeze out Caldwell and make him look closer to the center in a runoff with Landry. However, this strategy gets mooted if a Democrat enters the race, so his going all in to this particular contest represents something of a gamble – especially with Vitter making favorable noises about Landry that could make him the preferred conservative and populist candidate. Either way, Caldwell ends up the loser with Kennedy eating more into his base – especially if the Great Dane sprints to the left – than into Landry’s.
If Kennedy opts for the safety of a fifth term, apparently even the likes of Kleckley would not run against him; going up against a four-term incumbent with (at the end of 2013) some $3 million in the bank would daunt anyone. And, given his penchant for throwing out advice about governing where he can claim a fiscal connection given his current post and the positions it enables him to hold, such as being chairman of the State Bond Committee, it would appear that Kennedy actually would take a step back in influence over public policy by sliding over to attorney general.
Regardless that he would face a tougher road to election and probably diminish his policy-making impact, it’s whatever turns your crank on these matters. Such a lateral attempt by him would really make things interesting as it would guarantee three new officeholders and increase the odds of a fourth, compared to the last election cycle that produced none. So if you like more variety, root for him to take it.