Now that Louisiana has elected a new state treasurer and New Orleans has chosen a new mayor, it looks like voters are finally going to get a break.
Or are they?
True, after a stunningly eventful couple of years, there are no top-tier contests set for 2018. The major cities have new leaders, with East Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome still putting the finishing touches on her administration and New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell just getting started.
There's no U.S. Senate race on the calendar, so Louisiana won't get a piece of what's likely to be the year's dominant national story, the fight over control of Washington's upper chamber. None of state's six members of Congress are vulnerable to takeover by the other party — although there's always a chance that freshman Clay Higgins, whose unexpected rise was fueled by anti-crime online videos, may face a challenge from a more traditional Republican in the 3rd Congressional District.
Nor are there any statewide contests on the calendar as of now, and other than the high-stakes race for Jefferson Parish sheriff, there's not much on the local horizon.
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But none of that means there's not plenty of maneuvering, positioning and jockeying going on.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is only halfway through his first term, but the 2019 election feels like it's right around the corner. In some ways, it's felt that way since the day he took office.
That, of course, is the same day the Democratic governor learned he'd be facing a Republican-majority House led not by his choice of speaker, Democrat Walt Leger III, but by Republican Taylor Barras. Barras was a compromise candidate, a mild-mannered former Democrat who'd never held a leadership post and who was considered less confrontational than Cameron Henry, whose more aggressively partisan outlook worried some of his colleagues.
But if Henry didn't win the post he coveted, his style of politics has largely carried the day. Ideological conservatives claimed big majorities on the key money committees and Henry wound up in charge of Appropriations. And the battle to put the budget back together after the Bobby Jindal era has played out in many ways along party lines.
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Related fights have taken on partisan overtones as well, including the current battle over renewal of five Medicaid contracts with private companies, which Henry has blocked, arguing that the multi-billion dollar contracts need more scrutiny. And partisan posturing is sure to dominate the 2018 legislative session, when lawmakers will have to grapple with the looming expiration of more than $1 billion in temporary taxes they adopted in 2016.
All that's on top of ongoing tension between Edwards and Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry over a host of hot-button social issues, from LGBT rights to criminal justice reform.
What's behind all this, of course, is the fact that Louisianans overwhelmingly chose a Democrat for the state's top job in 2015, despite the voters' general Republican leanings. Many GOP leaders consider Edwards' election a fluke, the result of opponent David Vitter's surprising weakness. Yet for two years now, Edwards' poll numbers have remained positive, even after he signed those tax increases last year, so just how vulnerable he is remains under debate.
Edwards has been raising money and otherwise getting himself ready to face what's sure to be a well-funded challenge from some big-name Republican. One possibility is Landry. Another is U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, even though he was elected to his current job only last year. There are people who'd like to see U.S. Rep. Garret Graves run. And lately, a new name has popped up in the rumor mill: House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who, the theory goes, could make the move if Democrats take control of the House and he's no longer part of the majority party's leadership.
We may not know who will face Edwards until late 2018, or perhaps even early 2019. But this much is already clear: Louisiana's entered the era of the permanent campaign.