John Kennedy

Sen. John Kennedy, R-La. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

J. Scott Applewhite

In theory, U.S. senators have six-year terms for a good reasons, one of which is that lengthy terms create stability and allow senators to legislate without always worrying about the next election.

That's not generally how things work these days, when governing and campaigning are often indistinguishable. Still, the idea holds obvious appeal.

But not to everyone, it seems. And apparently not to one of the august body's newest members, Louisiana's John Kennedy.

Kennedy's 2016 win for the seat left vacant by David Vitter's retirement seemed to be the culmination of a particularly long game. Kennedy first ran for Senate back in 2004, in the election Vitter won, and tried again in 2008 when he challenged Mary Landrieu. He's reinvented just about every aspect of his public image during that period, morphing from moderate Democrat to hardline Republican and from technocrat to platitude-spewing country lawyer. The one constant was that he wanted to go the Senate.

So would it be too much to ask him to stick around for a while and do the job his constituents finally gave him?

Maybe so. Kennedy's replacement as treasurer hasn't even been chosen yet, but it's been an open secret for months now that he might challenge Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards for reelection in 2019, in a campaign that would likely have to start in earnest by this time next year.

Kennedy hasn't said so publicly, and when asked recently by The Advocate's Elizabeth Crisp about his intentions, he said he was focused on his work in Washington.

“I've got six things on my mind right now: passing tax reform, instituting Medicaid work requirements, rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure, passing a NFIP bill, repealing and replacing Obamacare, and beating Alabama," he told The Advocate by email, referencing LSU's upcoming football game. "Except for beating Alabama, I'm focused on policy, not politics, right now."

But he didn't close the door, and there's way too much chatter among Republican insiders to think he's not stoking it behind the scenes.

Louisiana has certainly seen politicians before who've won one office, only to started plotting to run for the next. Bobby Jindal comes to mind.

But for a new U.S. senator's intentions to be this uncertain just months into his first term is pretty stunning.

One likely reason behind all the talk is that some Republicans see Edwards as easy pickings. According to this school of thought, his election was an aberration caused mainly by Vitter's weakness as a candidate, and another Republican — particularly one with Kennedy's name recognition — could beat him. Certainly any serious challenger would have no trouble raising the money to try.

There's an alternate point of view too, that Edwards is actually pretty secure in the job despite being the only statewide Democratic elected official and the only Democratic governor in the conservative Deep South. His poll numbers are strong, particularly given that he's raised taxes. There seems to be a pool of good will, either because voters like his sure-handedness during disasters or think he's genuinely trying to solve problems that he inherited. Whether that lasts through next year's debate over heading off the state's fiscal cliff will likely determine whether he draws a strong opponent.

Kennedy wouldn't have to give up his Senate seat to run, and at 65, this may be his last chance to try for the Governor's Mansion. So maybe it's not so hard to see why he's keeping his options open.

Still, it hasn't even been a year since he asked the same voters who'll choose a governor in 2019 to send him to Washington. They elected him to do a job. Maybe he should just do it, at least for a while. 

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.