The governor’s race had not yet taken center stage in Louisiana’s political realm. All the talk had been about Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who had announced he was running and seemed a shoo-in to win.
I was impressed with Edwards, as was Linda. We both liked him, felt he had a good grasp of the issues facing Louisiana, and that he would make a good governor.
But he was a Democrat, albeit a conservative one. There was no way that John Bel, as a Democrat, could win in the blood-red Bayou State, so we thought After all, longtime Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu had just been soundly defeated by Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.
And, Vitter was considered invincible, having never lost an election, even after his involvement with prostitutes in D.C. became public news. Even so, it was my perception that Vitter should stay in the U.S. Senate where he had increasing seniority.
While he had weathered the prostitution scandal, which broke in 2007, in his run for re-election in 2010, I thought that running for governor was a different ball game and that the scandal would resurface with a vengeance.
And so it did. When two viable Republicans – Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle – joined the race, Vitter began feeling the pressure from his own party.
Vitter was in a fight for his political life with the two Republicans who zeroed in on Vitter’s scandal, putting the senator on the defensive. It was downright bare-knuckled politics among the three GOP candidates.
When the primary was over, Vitter, battered and bruised, limped into the runoff with Edwards, who got a surprising 40% of the vote to Vitter’s 23%.
To make matters worse, Dardenne endorsed Edwards, while Angelle remained mum. Supporters of both, angered by Vitter’s vicious attacks on them in the primary, decided to support Edwards or stay home.
The polls consistently showed Edwards with a double-digit lead, and, as each poll emerged, the Vitter campaign appeared more desperate.
Some Republican pollsters tried to prop up Vitter, claiming the race had closed to within four percentage points. But I have always put a lot of stock in the polls of Verne Kennedy of Market Research Insight.
His final poll prompted him to predict that Edwards would win by a 55-45% margin, but as black voter turnout increased, so would Edwards’ margin. The final result was Edwards 56% to Vitter’s 44%.
Edwards is the first Democrat to be elected governor in the Deep South in a dozen years. We wish him well.
Vitter is done
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter’s political career is over. He has announced that he will not seek re-election to a third Senate term in 2016.
Hindsight is 20-20. Vitter likely wishes he had not run for governor and stayed in the Senate where he was amassing seniority, His departure, along with Mary Landrieu’s defeat, leaves Louisiana with very little clout in Congress.
But during my 27 years working in Congress, I learned that every member of Congress from Louisiana wanted to be governor.
And the line is already forming to run for the political plum. The list of candidates could be a long one.
Two candidates have already announced – U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a cardiovascular surgeon from Lafayette, and U.S. Rep. John Fleming, a doctor and businessman from Minden.
Other potential Republican candidates are: State Treasurer John Kennedy of Baton Rouge, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Baton Rouge, and Rob Maness or Madisonville.
The big question is whether a Democrat will emerge to run for the S
Carmody has shot at Speaker
Shreveport state Rep. Thomas Carmody is being mentioned on a short list for Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives.
Carmody, a Republican, is good friends with Democratic Governor-Elect John Bel Edwards. As we mentioned earlier, the two were seatmates in the House and worked well together on issues.
Working in Carmody’s favor, political analysts say, is that he has a reputation for working well across the aisle and the fact that he is from north Louisiana could be a plus.
But there will be stiff competition for this position of power. While Republicans control the House and could elect whomever the please, it is possible that the new governor may broker a deal to have a Democrat in that leadership position.
It seems apparent that state Sen. John Alario, a Republican, will retain his position as president of the Senate. The Republicans also have a majority in the Senate, which has established a procedure to elect its president by secret ballot.
Whether the stars line up for Carmody remains to be seen, but it is a given that his influence in the House increases greatly with the election of Edwards. Carmody will have the governor’s ear.
That was not the case with Gov. Bobby Jindal. Carmody was never a loyal supporter and had little contact with the often absentee governor.
Carmody told the New Orleans Times-Picayune: “There is a lesson to be learned from this election. The people of Louisiana are smart enough to elect people who want to work with others.”enate seat now that the state has elected a Democratic governor.