Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is obsessed with Gov. John Bel Edwards. Typically, politicians elected to federal office focus mostly on federal issues. Not Kennedy. Generally speaking, Kennedy's fellow Louisiana senator, Bill Cassidy, doesn't criticize Edwards. The same is true for others in Louisiana's congressional delegation. When's the last time you heard U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise say anything bad about the governor? Yet Kennedy is always blasting Edwards. Earlier this year, Kennedy even called for the governor to resign. How over the top was that?
Kennedy is so consumed with demonizing Edwards that he sent President Donald Trump a letter criticizing the governor on the eve of Edwards' meeting with the president. The governor met with Trump and five other governors over criminal justice reform on Thursday.
"As you prepare to hold meetings on prison and sentencing reform, I wanted to share a cautionary tale from my home state of Louisiana," Kennedy said in his letter to the president. Kennedy's letter was sobering, direct and inflammatory, describing Edwards' justice reform legislation, which was supported last year by a coalition of Democratic and Republican state lawmakers, as deadly.
"People are being killed because of the so-called criminal justice reforms that were put in place," Kennedy wrote.
Kennedy's referring to the two inmates rearrested and charged with murder after being released early as a result of criminal justice reform. Five other inmates released early were arrested for either attempted murder or as alleged accomplices to murder.
“I suspect that when Gov. Edwards meets with him (Trump) or whoever he meets with at the White House, he’s not going to tell him about the murders,” Kennedy told reporters Wednesday.
Edwards' spokesman, Richard Carbo, described Kennedy's letter as political posturing.
"He’s embarrassing the state of Louisiana in his letter to the White House, but even worse, he’s scaring the public using flawed data," Carbo said. "With Senator Kennedy, you can always expect him to put his political ambitions ahead of the people he represents."
This is not the first time Kennedy's tried to embarrass Edwards in the nation's capital. During a debate on the farm bill on the Senate floor, Kennedy slammed Edwards' food stamp executive order because it didn't require work.
"Guess what my governor did? He implemented a food stamp work requirement without work. I mean, it looks beautiful on paper, except when you read the thing, it's a work requirement without work," Kennedy argued.
It's clear Kennedy's obsession with Edwards is driven by his desire to take his job. Kennedy admitted to polling for a possible 2019 bid for governor. He says it showed him beating Edwards soundly by a margin of 51 to 37 percent.
Another potential contender for governor, state Attorney General Jeff Landry, called on Kennedy to make up his mind. Landry has said he won't run if Kennedy does.
Kennedy dropped a major clue on Wednesday as to whether he'll run during an interview with WAFB television.
"Up there (Washington D.C.) if they think you're going to be gone, you lose all your power, I can tell you," Kennedy said.
It's not surprising Kennedy won't announce his candidacy for governor for fear of losing power. One thing we know about politicians, they like their power. But his unrelenting, ferocious and unorthodox attacks on the governor point to an Edwards-Kennedy race for governor next year.
Kennedy's proven himself an ambitious politician. He was a John Kerry-supporting Democrat in 2004. He ran for office four times as a Democrat, losing twice. He became a Republican only 11 years ago.
Kennedy's only been a senator for 18 months, and yet he's already endeared himself to the national media with his clever, folksy and often witty quips. He's always popping up on Fox News.
If Kennedy runs for governor, he'll likely harp on Edwards' creating 500,000 new government dependents in the state by expanding Medicaid under Obamacare. Kennedy will also drive home to voters Edwards' raising more than $7 billion in new taxes. Kennedy probably won't mention Edwards raised those taxes with the help of a Republican-controlled legislature.
Kennedy is currently the most popular Republican in the state. He got more votes than Trump in the state a year and a half ago. On paper, a Kennedy, Edwards governor's race shouldn't be much of a contest.
Email Dan Fagan at firstname.lastname@example.org.