Edwards had barely been sworn into office when the downhill slide began. He was the first Louisiana governor in memory who was not able to name his Speaker of the House, as Republican legislators firmly rejected the governor’s handpicked choice. Then Edwards was faced with a budget deficit, created by overspending by the previous Jindal administration, of over one billion dollars. A massive tax increase was not the way he wanted to begin his new administration.
His problems continued to mount in his first year with catastrophes over shootings by the police and of the police in the Baton Rouge area, followed by massive flooding in 20 parishes throughout central and south Louisiana. The new governor just couldn’t get a break. And he now enters a new year facing an additional $313 million budget hole.
Besides the mounting problems at home, John Bel faced the difficulty of being the only Democratic governor in the deep South, and leading a state made up of an overwhelming number of Republican elected officials. And he received scant support from the national Democratic Party. Clinton went down in defeat for President. The Governor had to all but deny his democratic lineage, as he tried not to be tagged by a national party that appeared to be more concerned as to where some people go to the bathroom than in offering solutions to the economic crisis faced by millions of blue collar Americans.
The Governor is being naive if he thinks he will not face strong and well-financed Republican opposition in 2019. The state Republican Party chairman began the new year by blasting Edwards for failing to offer a plan required by the federal government as to how some one billion dollars in federal flood aid will be spent by the state. And these Republican attacks will continue.
Edwards is aggressively raising campaign dollars, which is certainly important. But so far, he has failed to show any interest in building a campaign organization through the present Democratic Party. The current Democratic leadership seems almost in slumber mold, showing virtually no presence outside of New Orleans, and rarely challenging actions by Republicans working against the Governor. After the governor was attacked on the flood relief issue a few days ago, there was nary a peep from the state Democratic Party.
Perhaps you can’t blame the Governor from being a bit leery of the state party leadership. After all, stare party chairman Karen Petersen and former U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu tried their best to talk Edwards out of running in the first place. Their clandestine efforts are all outlined in the new book, “Long Shot,” published by The Lisburn Press.
The Governor is stuck with being a Democrat, so he ought to maximize what could be an opportunity. Yes, the party is stagnant and has done little grassroots organization throughout the state. But he still is the top dog in the party and could quickly take it over, make some heads roll, raise campaign dollars to support his efforts, and have a coordinate backup machine for both his legislative and political agendas.
Past governors have shied away from asserting control over their respective party apparatus. But 2019 will present a different scenario. Edwards will not have numerous Republican candidates beating each other up and scandals he can point to as he did to get elected. He will have to run on what he will have accomplished facing an obstinate Republican opposition, and probably one well-financed Republican opponent.
If the governor waits until 2018, he will be too late. It takes time to put together a viable grassroots organization. The coming year will be crunch time for John Bel Edwards. It’s anybody’s guess as to how he will respond.
When did the future switch from being a promise to being a threat?” ― Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com. You can also hear Jim’s nationally syndicated radio show each Sunday morning from 9 am till 11:00 am, central time, on the Genesis Radio Network, with a live stream at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.