They’re off, even if by historical terms, it’s a late-blooming race for governor of Louisiana this year.
The four major candidates signed up bright and early for the Oct. 24 election, only weeks away. Gov. Bobby Jindal is limited to two consecutive terms and thus his is an open seat, one for which candidates have been vying for months.
In those months, though, there’s not been a ton of interest generated by the campaigns, in part because few have run major advertising so far, and more attention has been focused on fundraising.
As shown in most polls, the front-runner among three Republicans appears to be U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who wishes to leave Washington for Baton Rouge. But it is no pushover race, as Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, and Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards, also qualified right away.
This post-Labor Day start is unusual in politics-mad Louisiana.
With Dardenne seeking to move up to the Governor’s Mansion, that also creates a heated competition for the state’s No. 2 job. Three Republicans paid their fees Tuesday to be on the ballot for lieutenant governor: state Sen. Elbert Guillory; former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser; and Jefferson Parish President John Young. A Democrat, East Baton Rouge Parish Mayor-President Kip Holden, qualified Wednesday.
Qualifying ends Thursday for those races and for the other five statewide offices — attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, insurance commissioner and agriculture commissioner. All have drawn announced opponents, though few have well-financed challengers.
Almost as important as the governor’s race, we think, are contests for a new Legislature. Members of the House and Senate will have to work with the new governor on balancing the state budget — no small task, given the projected shortfall next fiscal year — and bringing to the State Capitol a long-term view.
The short-term budget gimmicks that have been a hallmark of Jindal’s two terms have just about run their course. This spring, lawmakers passed a series of temporary suspensions of many business tax exemptions. Those will expire within three years, and the new governor and Legislature will have to work together to make the state’s finances more stable in the years ahead.
We want to see the candidates pledge themselves to reform of the state’s antiquated tax code, a playpen for coddled interest groups. That’s not necessarily going to be a popular path but it is one that the state needs to hear about on the campaign trail.