One thing about Louisiana politics: the only constant is that the rumors are never ceasing.
Another is that even though the rumors may be baseless, sometimes the logic behind them can actually make sense.
That is, if anything in Louisiana politics makes sense.
And so it is that those close to Gov. John Bel Edwards have been called upon to deny rumors—and they have—that he is courting the Republican Party as he ponders the political practicality of a switcheroo, a-la Buddy Roemer, John Kennedy, John Alario, and former U.S. Reps. Billy Tauzin and Rodney Alexander.
Still, according to a high-ranking State Republican Party official, Edwards’s intermediaries have been talking with State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere about that very possibility. Efforts by LouisianaVoice to reach Villere for a comment have been unsuccessful.
Gov. Edwards’s office categorically denies the report, hinting if anything, it was the Republican Party that asked him to the dance.
Either way, it’s now got both sides flinging rocks at each other with the next governor’s election nearly three years away yet.
As with any decision of such magnitude, fraught with perils as it would certainly be (it worked for Kennedy and Alexander but not so much for Roemer), there are plenty of pros and cons.
First the pros:
Remember those old (and I do mean old) Tareyton cigarette ads in which some happy smoker sporting a black eye proclaims that he/she would rather fight than switch?
Well, in Edwards’s case, it could be that he’d rather switch than fight.
The worst-kept secret (if, indeed it is still a secret to anyone) in the state is that Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry is in a four-year campaign mode for the governorship. And Landry takes verbal (and legal) swipes at Edwards at every opportunity in his blatant self-promotion.
With $3 million already in his campaign coffers, what better way to cut the attorney general off at the knees than to take away Landry’s fund-raising capabilities while adding to his own? As one political observer put it, “If Edwards switches to Republican, $3 million might be enough. Landry won’t be able to buy a Chik-fil-A sandwich. Edwards would be the beneficiary of that scenario because the Republican money would allow him to raise even more cash.”
There’s also this: as a Republican governor, he would be able to do what he could not as a Democrat: name his choice for Speaker of the House.
Another, a former state official, said, “The Democratic Party in Louisiana is gravely disappointing and I have to wonder the extent to which what is happening here is replicated in other states and at the national level, i. e., if Democrats in power have essentially given up on their own party.
“As you know, (State Rep.) Karen Carter Peterson and former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu tried to talk JBE out of even running (they wanted to support Dardenne) and it took him forever to get support from the national party in D.C.
“When is the last time our state party has come up with a viable candidate for anything? Was Hillary Clinton really the best the party could come up with as a POTUS candidate? Really? JBE got elected because the stars were aligned against Vitter—and look how long it took Republicans to essentially give up on Vitter. I had/have some hope for JBE. If he jumps ship, I guess the only place to go is independent which, to me, is like ceding all power to the Republicans and their führer.”
Another possible benefit to crossing over is Donald Trump. As vindictive, petulant, petty, vile and vicious as he is crazy, Trump would never hesitate to hit Louisiana where it hurts if it had a governor who insisted on partisan politics: the state treasury.
Louisiana already is the second most-reliant on federal funds of the 50 states. We are behind only Mississippi (but barely) in slopping at the federal trough. To see a cut in the influx of federal dollars for a variety of programs would only add to the already draconian budgetary woes facing the state.
On the con side, there is the obvious potential political fallout.
Politicians who change parties sometimes have a tough time of it, said a state employee who tends to keep his finger on the political pulse. “They are despised in the party they leave, and they are not trusted in the party they join. Buddy Roemer and John Connolly of Texas come to mind. However, Richard Shelby of Alabama changed from the Democratic Party to the GOP back in the mid-1990s, and he is still in the United States Senate.”
Finally, a Baton Rouge attorney said Edwards has been a difficult governor to figure out. “He is a real enigma and very disappointing, thus far, to me as a moderate conservative who voted for him. I cannot imagine how the progressives and the left feel at this point.
“I have been unable to figure out what his goals are,” the attorney, a former state employee, said. “He is obviously very indebted to many groups, such as the Sheriffs’ Association. That, it clearly appears to me, keeps him from doing many things that would make him more successful.”
As we said, one source wired into the Edwards camp says it just ain’t so but we’ve all heard promises and denials before from our elected officials that in the end, turned out to be just so much hot air. He already is pro-life and pro-gun so half the battle’s won if he decides to go over.
So, the question is this: is this a non-story story on a slow news day or something major in the offing? The rumors and the denials are equally strong at this juncture so we’ll wait and see.
Edwards spokesperson Richard Carbo, reached by LouisianaVoice, expressed shock at the report. “Let me check this out and I’ll get right back to you. Give me five minutes.”
Two hours later he replied by text message: “I can confirm that neither the governor nor his ‘intermediaries’ have been in contact with the state GOP about changing parties.”
Carbo quickly followed with a second text that accused the Louisiana Republican Party of planting the rumor: “First the state GOP floats this idea, then backtrack(s) when the governor shows no interest. The governor did not have a single conversation regarding political parties. He’s too busy cleaning up their (Republicans’) budget mess. Roger Villere should stick to negotiating illegal Iraqi oil deals. He’s better at that than party leadership.
“Unless there’s a source named, the onus is on them,” he said.
His reference to Villere’s “negotiating illegal Iraqi oil deals” was in reference an April 12, 2016, LouisianaVoice STORY about Villere’s and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s comedy of errors in being taken in by a con man promoting an oil deal with Iraq.
All of which just serves to support our advice: Never listen to what politicians say. In this case, observe instead, the governor’s action on the issues: taxes, education, higher education, etc. to get a true sense of which direction the political winds are blowing.
But above all else, remember that it’s the sincerity of the B.S. factor that trumps everything else (and no, that’s not a reference to anyone).