Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards didn’t get much of a break in his reelection effort when Louisiana state elections scheduled this fall closed qualifying last week.
Edwards’ best hope lay in the two major Republican candidates, Rep. Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, qualifying while having no other Democrats enter the fray. Not only did two from his own party show up, but one is black and the other Hispanic. Worst of all, he has a Landrieu with which to contend.
True, it’s “Go” Gary Landrieu, the wacky cousin of the main members of the former state political dynasty. This Landrieu has had his share of legal problems and multiple failed attempts at gaining elected office. Running as an independent, his platform sounds more like that of GOP Pres. Donald Trump than it does of Edwards’.
However, he’ll still cost Edwards some votes. He racked up two percent of the vote in a 2016 run for the Senate, probably most of those from people picking him for the family name and assuming he’s at least as far to the left as Edwards, who is liberal on fiscal issues and moderate on social issues. Some of his won’t vote for anybody including Edwards in the inevitable runoff between the incumbent and one of the two major Republicans.
Then there’s Vinny Mendoza, another serial candidate who has run several times for Congress, most recently ran for Kenner mayor but in 2007 was part of the field that GOP former Gov. Bobby Jindal wiped out. Collecting only a pittance of votes then, he’ll have little impact on Edwards’ fortunes.
But Omar Dantzler will. In 2014, he got eight percent for Hammond marshal and in 2015 took a swing against Edwards’ brother Daniel for sheriff, collecting only five percent. He won’t do any better statewide, yet this presents a problem. Running to the left of Edwards, he will pick up votes from mainly blacks disaffected at Edwards’ moderate social views and unwillingness to explicate a worldview based upon victimhood, and also those disappointed in his inability to pursue successfully leftist economic preferences; in other words, to punish Edwards for not articulating an agenda similar to the party’s typical presidential candidate.
They’ll show up to cast their protest vote for Dantzler – then disappear in the runoff. Add it all up, and, unless Edwards can find a lifeline through other candidacies, as much as five percent of the vote cast in the general election that doesn’t go to the major Republicans then also won’t go to him in the runoff – and that of Landrieu’s which doesn’t evaporate probably goes to the Republican survivor.
Particularly in the case of black voters, Edwards needs some stimulus for the runoff. In this century’s gubernatorial runoff elections, blacks and Republicans tend to increase turnout slightly in runoffs, while white Democrats decline a few percentage points. He can’t have any falloff among blacks and win reelection.
Problematically, the ballot doesn’t line up well for him in this regard in having runoffs for statewide offices, much less with black candidates running in these. Of the other executive offices, even though most feature black candidates with a good chance of finishing second, none will cause a runoff. The most likely for that to happen, Secretary of State, will occur only because a minor candidate, Republican Thomas Kennedy, may peel off enough votes from the GOP’s incumbent Kyle Ardoin because of the similarity of his last name with Republican Sen. John Kennedy, as happened in last year’s special election.
As far as Board of Elementary and Secondary Education races go, most likely won’t go to a runoff, and of those that do only the 8th District’s could with black or any Democrats involved. Thus, Edwards must depend upon contests at the local level, which are hit or miss. And it doesn’t help that Democrats let a number of legislative contests go without a competitive Democrat, much less one at all, running – in the Senate, 20 constituencies certain or expected to elect a Republican before the runoff with another 8 certain or likely to elect a Democrat before it, while in the House there are 56 in the former category and 27 in the latter (the “competitive” to the runoff races include three with independent black candidates against a field of Republicans) plus they and Republicans gave no party state Rep. Joe Marino a free pass as well. About the only thing Edwards has going for him is a number of black Democrat-only contested House races in Orleans Parish that will send two of those candidates to a runoff.
In short, given these dynamics, if Edwards can’t pull 40 percent in the general election, he’s history. Even up to 45 percent, he’s in trouble because almost all of those who didn’t vote for him either will vote for the Republican or not vote in the runoff. Only if he reaches that figure does he have a better than even money shot at repeating.