Gov. John Bel Edwards economic development summit

Gov. John Bel Edwards addresses a statewide economic development summit at L’Auberge event center in Baton Rouge on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2018.

When a passel of business leaders and officials gather Thursday in Baton Rouge for an economic development “summit,” will it be a pep rally for re-election of Gov. John Bel Edwards? That’s what the Louisiana Republican Party rather ineptly argues, forgetting that these events are not that unusual.

Granted, it was not an re-election year for Gov. Mike Foster. But he presided over a similar event in 2003. A national expert on competitiveness spoke, giving good advice about how the state’s business future can be improved.

As the GOP charged about Edwards’ event, a slew of Foster’s appointees and campaign contributors were in attendance or spoke at panel discussions in 2003. The GOP also charged about Edwards’ event that is at state expense, but officials said private sponsors are paying.

And there is a state rationale for it.

Edwards aide Mark Cooper said the event was inspired as a way to make sure today’s Louisiana companies are aware of incentive programs and what the state is doing for economic development. We obviously want to hold on to the businesses we have, as well as recruit new ones.

A similar event was held in 2018 in Baton Rouge.

Is such GOP carping credible? Did the GOP party organization back then pore over Foster’s contributors list to match that of speakers? Nope, and an irony is that the GOP party organization in those days — more conservative than Foster — didn’t like many of the governor’s policies much.

Inevitably, as Edwards is a Democrat, more Republican businessmen who are going to vote for somebody else come October are likely to be in the hall on Thursday.

If Foster had been a Democrat still, maybe the GOP would have carped about the event then. And the governor would have laughed off such a clumsy partisan volley, just as this one is likely to do.

Email Lanny Keller at lkeller@theadvocate.com.

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