(Photo: Sen. Kennedy)
“Is anyone really surprised that Sen. Kennedy would create an opportunity to score cheap political points by spouting wildly inaccurate and unrelated nonsense at the expense of the most promising bipartisan efforts to improve Louisiana’s criminal justice system and improve public safety in a decade all in in the hopes that it would benefit him personally?” the governor asked.
Edwards’s answer was “no.” “We’ve all grown used to his antics, but that doesn’t mean they are any less of a disservice to the people of our state,” the governor added.
Kennedy timed his comments with the governor’s trip to Washington, D.C., where he participated in an event organized by The Pew Charitable Trust and attended a meeting called by the White House to discuss the very topic.
Edwards said, “The senator should dignify the people who elected him to represent them in Washington by focusing his efforts on the job before him, which ought to be working with the rest of us to improve and better our state rather than creating petty distractions.
He added, “Sen. Kennedy is too caught up in his own political ambitions to see reality, and the reality is that the criminal justice reforms passed by the last legislative session were advanced by a bipartisan task force.”
The 10 bills that won legislative approval, seven of which were authored by Republicans, were supported by a broad variety of stakeholders including the conservative Louisiana Family Forum, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, the District Attorney’s Association, Smart on Crime, Right on Crime, the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, and victims’ advocates.
The legislation was debated in public hearings, and the governor and other supporters spoke to the media about these efforts regularly.
In fact, these reforms were based on the most in-depth study of the criminal justice system ever done in state history in comparison to penalties in other conservative southern states and the recommendation was to move Louisiana more in line with those states that have seen a reduction in their recidivism rates.
“If Sen. Kennedy had real reservations as this process was unfolding over a year ago, he would have taken advantage of the many opportunities to participate in the process,” Edwards noted.
One editorial weighed in. It said, “If Kennedy wants to challenge Edwards in 2019, have at it. If he’s bored with the U.S. Senate after a year, more interested in state politics, let him come home to open his 2019 gubernatorial campaign.”
It went on to say, “ If he’s serious about the Senate seat to which Louisianans entrusted him he might focus full attention on making the Senate functional and effective. He might pass a bill or two himself. That would make him not just a man of words, but of action.”