SADOW: Now That Kennedy Has Made His Decision, The Statewide Races Are All But Set

And so it seems, with one exception, the decision of Louisiana’s Republican Treasurer John Kennedy to seek reelection has set the lineups for this fall’s state executive office contests, resulting in three competitive races and maybe adding intrigue to a potential future one.

Kennedy’s choice means the gubernatorial field, a spot for which he considered running, is close to being final as far as meaningful candidates go. Of them, Republican Sen. David Vitter gained the most with Kennedy’s deferral, as both have a populist appeal to the electorate, and solidifies his status as favorite. Still, this field could change if Democrats split among themselves and put up another candidate other than state Rep. John Bel Edwards. Especially if a quality black candidate were to enter it, this would likely assure a general election runoff of Vitter with either Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne or Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, both Republicans, thereby decreasing Vitter’s chances of victory. It all depends upon whether Democrats want to hang onto the slim chance that Edwards could prevail in the runoff that he has a great chance of making if the only quality Democrat in the contest, or if they want to throw in the towel and have the chance to pick from among the least objectionable (to them) of Republican candidates in a runoff.

Additionally, the decision by Kennedy basically settled the attorney general competitors, the other office he considered, with only incumbent Atty. Gen. Buddy Caldwell and former Rep. Jeff Landry so far as quality candidates, to both of the Republicans’ relief. Kennedy probably would have made a runoff with one of them and might have been the favorite in that against either. With no sign of a competitive Democrat probable to enter the fray, this configuration lends itself to a tossup at this time, with the majority of Republicans pulling for Landry and Democrats having to settle for their former co-partisan Caldwell.

These competitive contests will join with the lieutenant governor’s race to comprise those where the outcomes seem in doubt. Kennedy’s fourth reelection attempt should see him hardly breaking a sweat, and Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon, and Agriculture and Forestry Secretary Mike Strain, all Republicans, should experience relatively easy paths to reelection.

In the final analysis, passing on the governor’s race for Kennedy made sense with Vitter already stealing some of his thunder and other well-funded quality candidates there that could squeeze him out, making that the path of most resistance. And making a play for attorney general at best was a lateral move, so it did not make much sense to give up his sure thing as treasurer for that.

Plus, with at the end of last year a healthy $3.5 million in his state campaign account and running for reelection that will attract weak, if any, opponents, he won’t have to dip much into that and could use it for a run for the Senate in 2016, if Vitter wins this year and thereby must vacate the seat. This scenario gives Kennedy a considerable leg up in financing against a field unlikely to have won an election statewide, much less five times as he likely will have by then. Should Vitter fail to prevail, or Kennedy comes up short in a crack at the Senate, going out of politics as treasurer is anything but a bad consolation prize.

In this light, his selection makes all the sense in the world, and essentially closes the book on the structures of the statewide competitions this fall with the possible exception of that for governor. About half a year away, speculation of who wins what now begins in earnest.



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