BR.govsugarcane287.072018

From left, Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain, D.V.M., shakes hands with Gov. John Bel Edwards, as sugar cane farmer Al Landry  rises to applaud, after Edwards concluded his remarks before he and Strain took questions from sugar cane farmers convened at Alton Landry, Inc. farm in Plaquemine, Thursday, July 19, 2018.

Sick of the Legislature and politics and the State Capitol? Don't look now, but the jockeying for 2019 is well underway, and has been for months.

In the case of lawmakers term-limited, a lot of discussions have been going on for months.

One of the effects of term limits, 12 years in one office for legislators, is that the bodies lose institutional knowledge, although some extend their stay in the fleshpots of Baton Rouge by running for a spot in the other chamber instead.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, is also former Speaker Alario, and for that matter, former Edwin W. Edwards floor leader Alario, D-Westwego.

He came to the State Capitol in 1972. Talk about becoming an institution. Maybe he'll be back in the House.

But another effect of term limits is that an incumbent is a lame duck four years out from the next election. Quietly, there's been canvassing among Republican members in House and Senate for potential leadership positions in the Legislature that opens in 2020.

But the marquee race in 2019 is going to be that of the governor, and there's already a lot of discussion about John Bel Edwards' chances of a repeat of his remarkable 2015 victory.

The consensus is difficult to pinpoint because right and left seem to have widely varying views of the re-electability of the lone Democrat in statewide office.

"Compared to the socialist wing of the Democratic Party, Edwards is a raging conservative, but in his home state, his political ideology makes him vulnerable in the next election," said Jeff Crouere, host of Ringside Politics in New Orleans.

Crouere is a former staff director of the Louisiana Republican Party, and his indictment of Edwards' chances leans heavily on both the taxes the governor has supported and some of them that passed, notably the sales tax.

As Republican legislators pushed for the sales tax, and eschewed long-term tax reform, one wonders if that is going to be pivotal in the election; maybe voters care about taxes that increase in a low-tax state, but one can argue that they don't care that much about taxes that didn't pass.

Nor is it news that Louisiana has more government workers per capita, or that Edwards expanded Medicaid. The latter is in fact a signature achievement that has 475,000 winners in the state — folks with insurance cards that did not have them before.

Nor have people entirely forgotten the mess left by former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Now there was an ideologue.

And what is Edwards' ideology? On cultural issues, as Crouere acknowledges, the governor's positions are generally the opposite of the national Democratic Party, although he has been more supportive of gay rights than many Louisiana politicians. Since he's a devout man who reads his Bible and gives thanks before his meals, portraying Edwards as an ideologue will take a lot of attack ads.

The governor, like the president, has his detractors but benefits from a rising economy.

In retrospect, painful as it was, the collapse in oil prices came at the right time for Edwards. While it pinched the budget early on, the state has had some time to recover. If — and it's a big "if" for one of the longest-lasting economic expansions in American history — the economy continues to improve, it's hard to portray Edwards as a job-killer.

And it's also difficult to see Republican legislators blocking a teacher pay raise in the 2019 Legislature if the economy grows and revenues permit that crowd-pleasing maneuver, benefiting incumbents of both parties.

And finally there is the human factor. The governor is in his early 50s, vigorous and as even his critics in the State Capitol will agree, a hard worker. He's not likely to be caught napping, as a $5 million campaign war chest suggests.

Nor is he out of sync with major Republican leaders. He is on close terms with Republican politicians like Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain, who may disagree with Edwards on some issues but work together on practical problem-solving in government.

Again, hard to find a leftist here.

Maybe the consensus in the State Capitol is wrong — ask "Gov. Vitter" — but the general view is less of Edwards' vulnerable spots than his strengths as the political season begins.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.