CUNNINGHAM: Kennedy’s Options

A cross-post from the Natchitoches Parish Journal.

The race for David Vitter’s U.S. Senate seat is on. Congressman John Fleming has announced, and Congressman Charles Boustany will make his announcement soon. The other players will take to the field soon enough, and another tough election cycle in the state will begin again.

There is one person who an outlier, and that is John Neely Kennedy, the state’s treasurer. A lot of pundits imagine he’ll jump in. I’m skeptical for multiple reasons. The first is that Kennedy is so popular in the state. Democrats didn’t even try to field a decent candidate for that race this fall. He won overwhelmingly.

Kennedy has been the benefactor of a lot of luck. He lost to David Vitter in the 2004 Senate election (he ran as a Democrat). He lost to Mary Landrieu in 2008 (he ran as a Republican). Losing both of those races, Kennedy has stayed in state government, and has been the fiscal conservative voice in contrast to the budgetary tricks used throughout Bobby Jindal’s tenure as governor. He is more popular than ever, and his polling looks pretty good.

And that is the second reason Kennedy should not run. He is in prime position to win the governor’s mansion from John Bel Edwards in 2019. Historically, Democrats do not hold the governor’s spot for more than one term. Kennedy knows the state’s finances better than most, and with Edwards revealing himself to be further to the left than he portrayed himself in the campaign, Kennedy can take what he was saying about Jindal, crank it up to eleven, and set himself as the strong conservative voice against a Democratic administration.

The third reason Kennedy needs to run is because the Republican Party in the state has an incredibly shallow bench. While the national party has a wide range of figureheads, here in Louisiana, the party is seriously lacking in leadership. The governor is supposed to be the de facto leader of the party, but that was one of Jindal’s biggest failings. Kennedy is the state leader who has been in statewide public office the longest and has been fighting for conservatism the most.

Kennedy is in a prime position to win whatever office he wants, but the choice between Senator and Governor should be very clear. He can wield more power as governor and affect a bigger change when it’s all said and done.



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