The Lane Grigsby-John Kennedy-Baton Rouge Advocate Mess

I was running the roads most of the day yesterday and didn’t have time to address this until now, and frankly I would really rather not talk about it, but something needs to be said about the Charlie Foxtrot inside the Louisiana Republican tent touched off when Cajun Industries founder and conservative campaign donor Lane Grigsby gave an interview to the Baton Rouge Advocate’s Mark Ballard trashing John Kennedy as a prospective candidate for governor next year.

Here’s what Grigsby said

Kennedy hasn’t passed any legislation yet, a snippet that no doubt will be the theme of a good many commercials in the coming months should he decide to challenge the reelection of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, Grigsby told The Advocate Thursday. Grigsby supports his friend and fellow Baton Rouge contractor Eddie Rispone, who is the only officially announced Republican candidate.

“Louisiana needs leadership, not another politician looking for another lily pad,” Grigsby said. “He hasn’t done much yet but appear on Fox News.”

Kennedy sat in Grigsby’s office recently as the contractor told him that Louisiana would be better served if the junior senator stayed in Washington and accumulated power. In the meantime, as long as the formidable Kennedy was considering a run for governor, he was freezing the field for other potential GOP candidates. “He said he wouldn’t take his name off the table,” Grigsby recalled.

Grigsby’s perspective is this: he’s greatly irritated by perpetual candidates who run for everything. He likes politicians who commit to a job and serve out their terms before running for the next thing. That makes him a detractor from Kennedy, who for whatever assets he may possess has absolutely earned a reputation as a guy who runs for pretty much everything. And Grigsby is also wide open and passionate about his support for Eddie Rispone, who like Grigsby is an industrial contractor and longtime funder of Republican and conservative causes in Louisiana. Rispone has announced he’s running for governor.

And that perspective is a valid one. It’s valid. Without taking a position on Kennedy’s upcoming candidacy, it’s without question a negative that he’s a U.S. Senator who is wanting to give up that position and run for governor. If that wasn’t the case, if he was still Treasurer and carping about the current governor’s poor performance daily, John Kennedy would be ahead of John Bel Edwards by probably 20 points. There is some resistance to Kennedy’s potential candidacy because there is a perception he’s a job-hopper.

Kennedy ran for the Senate in 2004, 2008 and 2016, and as soon as he finally won he’s now about to jump into the next statewide race. That’s not a judgement. It’s a fact. And it’s a negative which is priced into Kennedy’s stock. We all know it. Can’t be helped, other than for him to stay in the Senate.

But let’s face it – if Kennedy wants to run, neither Lane Grigsby nor Eddie Rispone nor anybody here at The Hayride nor Mark Ballard at the Advocate nor the man in the moon is going to stop him from doing so.

All of that said, and with whatever warts John Kennedy might have as a gubernatorial candidate, from any objective assessment John Kennedy is the best bet the Louisiana Republican Party has if it wants to beat John Bel Edwards. Period. That’s not to say John Kennedy is the best potential governor the state GOP might offer up – I can’t say who that might be right now and I’m not even going to try to offer that analysis. What I can say is the obvious: if you want to beat Edwards, Kennedy is the safest, strongest candidate to beat him with.

Kennedy has the most proven fundraising base. Kennedy has universal name recognition. Kennedy’s political skills are unmatched. Kennedy’s communications skills greatly outstrip anybody else in the field. That’s just the truth of it.

Am I saying nobody else should run? No. If a Rispone or Ralph Abraham or Sharon Hewitt want to get in, so be it.

What I can say is this – it is completely and egregiously counterproductive to repeat the folly of the 2015 gubernatorial race in which three Republicans cut each other to ribbons and allowed John Bel Edwards to coast to an unwarranted victory. And anybody who acts to bring us a reprise of that disaster deserves to be called out as such. Running somebody for governor is one thing – trashing other Republicans while we still have this awful jungle primary is something else.

Moon Griffon took to the airwaves yesterday to let Grigsby have it with both barrels, and most of what Griffon said was spot on.

What’s worst about all this isn’t the grumbling about Kennedy. Like I said above, Grigsby is absolutely entitled to his opinion on Kennedy’s political job-hopping, and my question about Rispone as a gubernatorial candidate isn’t whether he’s fit to do the job (of course he is) but whether he can thrive in the muck of a political campaign such as one must in order to win a statewide race in Louisiana. I am totally fine with the idea someone might have reservations about Kennedy.

As Griffon noted, what stinks about this and why it’s a mess is the idea of going to Mark Ballard at the Advocate to air this dirty laundry.

Mark Ballard is NOT a friend to Louisiana Republicans. Mark Ballard is not a neutral observer. Mark Ballard is a Democrat and a partisan one, and it doesn’t take an extensive reading of his work to recognize it.

Griffon likened this to what John McCain made a practice of on the national level, which was to trash fellow Republicans to the partisan Democrat media. He’s exactly right there.

And yeah, maybe the Grigsby-Rispone camp got exactly what they wanted out of Ballard’s article, which bore the headline “Sen. John Kennedy may be gearing up for run at Louisiana governor, but will GOP support him?” If you’re trying to run an underdog Republican campaign, you want a narrative like that out there so you can present yourself as the standard people who share that view can rally around.

But like Griffon said, none of this does a bit of good if all you’re doing is making it easier for John Bel Edwards to divide and conquer his way to a second ruinous term as governor.

We need to do a whole lot better than this. This is the kind of mess which has to be cleaned up if Republicans are going to retake the political power Louisiana badly needs them to have.

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