Someone describing himself as a conservative Republican recently told me he voted for John Bel Edwards because he simply didn’t like David Vitter personally. The voter wondered, "How much damage could a liberal Democrat like Edwards do with a Republican-controlled Legislature to keep him in check?" He now admits he made a mistake.
Louisiana conservatives I talk with are not very happy with how things have gone in the past three years under Edwards. Not all of their frustration lies with the governor. Many expected Republicans to put up more of a fight when Edwards pushed so hard for higher taxes. But Edwards got away with raising $7 billion in new taxes with assistance from a Republican-controlled Legislature.
Edwards attempted to raise more than $14 billion in new taxes, but in the end, thanks to House Republicans, only got away with half that. But transferring $7 billion out of the private sector into government is no small thing for many Louisiana conservatives.
The chattering class will tell you it was a no-brainer to raise taxes, and that’s why even Republicans finally caved to the idea. But big-government types always want more. Enough is never enough. Edwards spent his first three years in office touting one crisis after another in an attempt to either raise or renew so-called temporary taxes. Then, all of a sudden, poof — within a year of his reelection, the tax-raising crusade ended.
Common sense would dictate Edwards’ voicing doom and gloom crises to raise taxes will resume instantly if voters gave him a second term.
That’s why what U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, R-Madisonville, said on Monday should give conservatives hope. Kennedy’s been working with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, another Republican, trying to get more conservatives elected to the Legislature.
“I do plan on being very involved to the extent candidates want me to,” Kennedy told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “I’ve been raising money for the effort. I think it’s very important.”
Kennedy and Landry are calling their group the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority. Hopefully, they’ll target legislators like Republican-in-name-only types like John Alario of Westwego. Alario, as senate president, has been nothing more than a puppet of Edwards as governor. The longtime Louisiana politician has not said if he’ll run for the House. He’s term-limited out of his Senate seat.
Kennedy says he’s already in the process of interviewing legislative candidates and has begun to raise money for some. On Monday, he endorsed Republican Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud, who is running for State Senate District 28. Cloud is running for one of the 47 of the Legislature’s 144 seats opening this year as a result of term limits.
Dan Fagan did all he could to put his best spin on the governor's race, but it just won’t wash.
“We got two groups of people in Louisiana state government. I’m not talking about Democrats and Republicans, “ Kennedy said. “We got those who believe in more freedom and those who believe in more free stuff.”
Kennedy offered up his analysis of the governor’s race, telling journalists it will be a tight one.
“I don't think we're going to have a feel for things until the race really starts, and it hasn't really started yet. It'll start when people go on television,” Kennedy said.
In Louisiana you can’t trim trees, install alarms, arrange flowers, or even braid hair without a license. But apparently you can practice law …
Kennedy, not afraid to take a verbal swing at others now and then, accused some media members of taking sides in the governor’s race. He did so right in front the Press Club members.
“There are people, we all know who they are in the media, that if you turned John Bel upside down and shook him, some members of the media would fall out of his pocket. We all know that’s true,” said Kennedy.
John Bel Edwards, when asked point blank during a televised debate in his first gubernatorial campaign if he would raise taxes as governor, answered no. Many conservatives were skeptical then and remain so today. If voters give Edwards a second term, a genuine conservative Republican majority controlling the Legislature is a must to hold the governor’s government growing ways in check.