As Expected, Louisiana Republican Party Officials Galvanize Behind Ardoin

In a press release this morning, the Republican Party of Louisiana announced what everybody expected – namely, that Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who faces a December 8 runoff election against Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, has more or less unanimous support from the party’s elected officials…

Today, Louisiana Republican officials across the state joined together to express support for Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin in his runoff election scheduled for December 8, 2018. Members of the executive branch of Louisiana, and the Republican members of the Congressional delegation, announced their endorsements of Secretary Ardoin for the December 8 runoff.

“It is vital that we keep a conservative Republican as our Louisiana Secretary of State. We cannot afford a liberal progressive in that office who would weaken our voter ID laws and undermine the integrity of our elections,” Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Louis Gurvich said. “It’s critical that all Louisiana Republicans show up to support and vote for Secretary of State Ardoin on December 8. No one should take this election for granted!”

“Look at what’s happening in Florida and Georgia, where the incompetence of local election officials is casting serious doubt on the results of the elections in those states. This cannot be allowed to happen in Louisiana. I will continue to ensure the security of our elections, and fight the radicals who wish to change our election laws,” declared Secretary of State Ardoin.

Secretary Ardoin placed first in the November primary. Early voting for the runoff election takes place November 24-December 1, and Election Day is December 8.

The list of Republican officials who have endorsed Secretary Ardoin are as follows:

Republican Party of Louisiana
Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D.
Senator John Kennedy
Congressman Steve Scalise
Congressman Ralph Abraham
Congressman Clay Higgins
Congressman Mike Johnson
Attorney General Jeff Landry
Treasurer John Schroder
Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry Mike Strain
Commissioner of Insurance Jim Donelon

You’ll notice that one member of the Republican congressional delegation, Garret Graves, isn’t on that list. Graves doesn’t do endorsements – he’s had a long-standing policy of being opposed to telling people how to vote.

You also may notice that while two of the Republican candidates for Secretary of State – Thomas Kennedy and Heather Cloud – have already endorsed Ardoin, three others have not.

A.G. Crowe doesn’t sound like he’s going to endorse Ardoin. In fact, last week he told LAGOP executive director Andrew Bautsch that he was looking at jumping back into the race for Secretary of State – for the 2019 election cycle – in mid-December. Having spent more than $200,000 to get only 71,000 votes last Tuesday you’d think that Crowe wouldn’t have much enthusiasm for doing something with such a small prospect of success, but that’s what he said he was going to do.

That Julie Stokes hasn’t endorsed Ardoin is a pretty telling development, and one which validates pretty much everything negative said about her in the primary – namely, that Stokes was the RINO in the race running at the behest of Gov. John Bel Edwards, and her loyalties lie with Edwards rather than the GOP when push comes to shove. What’s interesting is that Edwards would surely not hold it against Stokes were she to endorse Ardoin; the political reality here is obvious. He’s going to win decisively on Dec. 8, and for her to fail to endorse means she’ll have next to no influence in next year’s legislative session and she’ll also almost surely face a Republican challenger for her seat in the state legislature next year. In fact, we’re told candidate recruitment for a Stokes challenger has already begun.

Which brings us to Rick Edmonds, who might be making the biggest mistake of all by failing to get behind Ardoin.

There are two things to recognize here, both of which mitigate the criticism we would offer of Edmonds for his refusal – so far – to discuss an endorsement. First, Louisiana’s electoral calendar is horribly flawed in that the primaries and runoffs are far too close together. Early voting for the Dec. 8 runoff in this election starts Nov. 24, which is a week from Saturday. That is entirely too compressed a calendar to have any good order in cobbling together endorsements and consolidating the losing campaigns into the winning ones. Edmonds’ loss isn’t even a week old and here we are analyzing the reasons he hasn’t already endorsed Ardoin.

The second understandable thing here is that Edmonds still carries a grudge over Ardoin’s last-minute decision to get into the Secretary of State race, and given that Edmonds finished ahead of Stokes and placed second among the Republican candidates he can make the argument that Ardoin’s running cost him the race. We’ll never know if that’s true, but he certainly can make the argument for it – and he’s likely going to carry the pain of that fact for the rest of his life. It’s understandable if he’s not ready to get past that in a week.

But here’s the problem. Nothing Edmonds does going forward will change the fact he lost the election last week. And that fact had been established long before last Tuesday. Edmonds wasn’t going to make the runoff not just because Ardoin was in his way, but also because Cloud and Crowe were pulling in votes Edmonds needed, and neither of them dropped out of the race. He wasn’t going to win, and he had to know it well in advance of Nov. 6. Unfortunately, through a bit of myopia on his part and also through some awful advice by his consultants, who it seems were more interested in raking in fees and media buyer commissions than in serving their client, Edmonds doubled down in the final days of the primary race and spent personal funds to stake his campaign with $170,000 in cash for TV spots attacking Ardoin.

That decision has made for a real problem for Edmonds vis-a-vis the rest of the party. Here at The Hayride on Friday, party chairman Louis Gurvich noted his distaste for the internecine brawling the primary descended into, and while he didn’t mention Edmonds’ name it’s clear who Gurvich was talking about. So that makes Edmonds, who has been one of the most stalwart conservatives in the Louisiana legislature and therefore one of the favorite sons of the GOP up until this race began, something of an outcast at the moment.

And like Stokes, Edmonds has a re-election race coming up next year. That presents him with a real problem, because not only does he not have a campaign war chest ready for that race but he starts out $170,000 in debt.

So if you’re a Republican donor and Edmonds approaches you for a check to fund that re-election campaign, the first thing you’re going to think of is he’s going to pocket anything you give him rather than spend it getting re-elected. This thought, which every well-heeled donor will harbor because that’s what they would do in Edmonds’ circumstances, will have a tremendously negative effect on his ability to raise money.

And a provocative effect on potential challengers he might face.

It’s unlikely you’ll get a better conservative than Rick Edmonds, even in what is a deep red legislative district. Before Edmonds, that seat was briefly held by tax-raising RINO Darrell Ourso, who might well run against him. Ourso will have a good $75,000 or more to make that race, and Edmonds would be more or less dead in the water without a war chest of his own. You’d say that the institutional players, like the party or LABI or the Louisiana Family Forum, might jump in and help Edmonds in a race like that – but the party isn’t helping Rick Edmonds if he doesn’t endorse Ardoin. And if it’s not just Ourso but another challenger who presents himself or herself as a solid conservative, the support might go to that third person.

So while he doesn’t want to do it, politically Edmonds’ only move here is to get on board with Ardoin. What he’d want to do is ask for some help in retiring that $170,000 campaign debt in return for smoothing over the rift, and while it’s perhaps a bit pie-in-the-sky to expect the whole amount covered he’d certainly get some. And he could get help in other ways – like having the party run interference for him by dissuading challengers next year, or lining up support from all the institutional players. Edmonds’ record in the legislature makes that a pretty easy call; it’s the bitterness over this campaign which complicates things. Make that bitterness go away and recovery is possible.

But if Edmonds can’t get past it all, it’s understandable. What it isn’t is smart politics. And it’s time for Republicans in Louisiana to start operating with a lot more savvy than they’ve been. Edmonds can either be part of that, or he can get left behind.

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