Are Louisiana’s Democrats Trying To Position For U.S. Senate Races?

I had a theory posited to me this morning which I found quite plausible, and it struck me that it made a good bit of sense in explaining some of the quirky political occurrences over the past few days: John Bel Edwards is trying to set himself up as the Democrats’ candidate to oppose John Kennedy in the 2022 U.S. Senate race.

We’ll get to that in a minute, because more pressing is the Senate race coming up in less than four months. Bill Cassidy is up for re-election, and he’s currently set to coast into another term. Cassidy doesn’t have any real opposition. There’s a guy named Antoine Pierce, a black Democrat from Baton Rouge who has run unsuccessfully in a local race or two, but it isn’t even worthwhile to call Pierce even token opposition. The others are even more nondescript. Cassidy is sitting on $6 million in his campaign war chest.

The Democrats don’t have anybody who can beat Cassidy. It’s not that he’s unbeatable, his approval numbers indicate the public is somewhat lukewarm about him at present, but the opposition’s bench is nonexistent and their party apparatus is completely vacant at the moment. As Louis Gurvich noted this morning, recently both the chair and the executive director have stepped down.

But now there’s an interesting item about this fall’s Senate race at The Advocate. It’s a Tyler Bridges piece, so obviously it’s not interesting for what it says but rather for what it portends and signals…

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is facing four little-known Democrats. But the contest would change if Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins jumps into the race when qualifying begins next week.

“I have been approached by a lot of people from all over the state asking me to step up,” Perkins said in a text Wednesday. “In this moment of overlapping crisis, there is a lot to consider. Ultimately, I want to do what’s best for the city of Shreveport.”

Not that Perkins has much of a record of that. Jeff Sadow and others have exposed his mismanagement and political skulduggery time and again. By the way, does this come off as “objective journalism” to you?

Cassidy voted for the huge tax cut passed by Congress in 2017 that favored the wealthy and big corporations and has tried unsuccessfully to repeal Obamacare and replace it with a plan that he has said would expand health care insurance.

Cassidy, who worked as a gastroenterologist before becoming a senator, has not criticized Trump’s bombastic comments, controversial moves or outright lies.

Remember that the next time Advocate publisher Peter Kovacs preens about “great journalism” when he demands donations from the Advocate’s readership.

Then there is this…

Perkins, 34, is untested on a big stage. But he knocked off an incumbent in 2018 to become mayor of Louisiana’s third-biggest city. He has a sterling resume – he graduated from West Point, served as a field artillery officer in the U.S. Army and graduated from Harvard Law School before returning to Shreveport to be elected mayor.

So that’s Tyler Bridges trying to pump Adrian Perkins up as a statewide electoral candidate. We know that Bridges is a mouthpiece for John Bel Edwards, so if he’s pumping Perkins and Edwards is now fully in control of the Louisiana Democrat Party with Karen Carter Peterson’s ouster, it’s a pretty good indication it’s Edwards’ camp throwing Perkins into the race – or at least attempting to.

Bridges is somewhat right that Perkins has a few checklist items that make him palatable, or at least more palatable than most of the Democrat politicians (especially black Democrat politicians) who are on offer. And it’s widely believed that Perkins has a George Soros connection, which would be electoral poison in a state like Louisiana but it would also mean the ability to raise large amounts of money even for a hopeless cause. Edwards, should he choose, could also funnel cash Perkins’ way from state contractors, hospitals, casinos and other special interests he’s in a position to benefit…or harm. They’ve likely all donated to Cassidy as well, but if they can be persuaded to dump some money on Perkins to make a race, then at least the Democrats’ consultants and operatives will have made some money this cycle that they otherwise wouldn’t. That would allow the governor to keep his people somewhat happy for what’s to come.

And the Senate race is a free shot for Perkins. He isn’t up for re-election this fall, so he can run and lose that Senate race and the only consequence is that his name might be better known for another run later – like, for example, the 2023 governor’s race the Democrats aren’t going to have a candidate for otherwise.

An Edwards-Perkins alliance would help maintain the black vote for Edwards, something he would be quite desirous of in the event he were to take the plunge against Kennedy in two years.

And he would position himself as a centrist alternative to Kennedy’s “far-right” conservatism. After all, didn’t Edwards agree to sign a tort reform bill? Didn’t he sign off on some tax breaks for businesses? Didn’t he sign some pro-gun bills?

Edwards is also likely to tout his leadership in keeping Louisianans from dying of COVID-19, though by 2022 it’s entirely likely that performance will blow up in his face under the weight of shoddy, perhaps even crooked, recordkeeping and a mountain of lawsuits by businesses he’s destroyed. But if he can carry it off it’ll be thought of as evidence he’s acted in a non-partisan and apolitical manner.

That would serve as a partial explanation of this…

Some of that is gamesmanship against Jeff Landry, who is (1) Edwards’ most likely successor as governor and (2) the most visible Republican statewide official right now and Edwards’ chief critic. Landry issued a legal opinion yesterday which more or less annihilated Edwards on his mask mandate and bar closure. But the way this response is positioned is that Edwards is with Donald Trump and Mike Pence and Landry is hanging out with the hooples on the far right.

Of course, given that he’s spending his time on Senate matters Kennedy hasn’t spent a lot of time blasting Edwards for his mask mandates and economic shutdowns. He’s carped about it a little, but the loudest Kennedy has been was a couple of days ago when he unloaded on teachers’ unions and the educational establishment nationally for resisting the impetus to go back to school this fall.

That could end up being an interesting flashpoint over the next couple of weeks as the debate rages about restarting schools around the state, as it’s tied in with the petition circulating in the Louisiana House that would take away Edwards’ disaster declaration. Kennedy hasn’t endorsed that petition, but if it comes down to a question about whether getting a majority number of signatures on it in order to force the schools back open over Edwards’ objections, that could change – and given the Trump administration’s adamant statements about reopening the schools, something Vice President Mike Pence made known in Louisiana on Tuesday, Edwards won’t be able to position himself with the White House in that debate.

All of which remains to be seen. What’s notable now, though, is after a long period of time in which there was no buzz at all about Democrats even contesting Senate races in Louisiana we’ve got the beginnings of a picture for how they might attempt to keep themselves viable.



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