Louisiana’s governor’s race is going to be a sprint more than a marathon.
Some of the candidates, who have been plugging away at fundraising and meeting people for a year or so, probably think that is an unreasonable comment on their labors. But given that only recently has there been extensive advertising in the race, we think it’s a reasonable assessment of how the race will play out.
And play out quickly: The primary election is Oct. 24. The likely runoff will be Nov. 21.
In July and August, LSU’s Public Policy Research Lab polled more than 1,000 voters and found that few of the candidates had moved the emotions of voters one way or another, with perceived frontrunner U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Metairie, having, by far, the most name recognition. Only about 29 percent of respondents said they were closely following the election. That was the same percentage as in March of this year.
Along with Vitter, Republicans Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge, and Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge, are seeking the top job. They are both accomplished political figures, a member of the Public Service Commission and lieutenant governor, respectively.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, is the single major Democrat in the race.
Since the LSU poll was conducted, what else has happened in the political world? We’d say Donald Trump, whose improbable rise has dominated water-cooler conversation about politics, probably to the detriment of the four candidates running for governor.
Now that the election is so close in time, and the vote split among four credible candidates, we hope that all the candidates will agree to as many televised debates and forums as possible during October.
Rarely has Louisiana faced a more difficult transition than from the eight years of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who cannot run again because of term limits. While his years have been marked by some advances and by a solid economic recovery from the Great Recession early on, the budget is now a mess, and all the candidates ought to explain how they will deal with the pressing problem of state finances.
There are other issues, as well, including dealing with the impact of budget cuts in higher education and expanding health care access for working people. Transportation is a critical problem in the Baton Rouge and Lafayette areas in particular, but really all over the state.
This year has seen a number of forums, many sponsored by particular industry groups, in which candidates were given questions in advance. That does not illuminate for voters the ability to think quickly, which is one of the qualities people will look for in a governor.
Louisiana’s voters deserve a chance to see all the candidates dealing with fair questions and interacting with each other in televised forums.