Whatever one might say about Edwin W. Edwards and the late Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, they were always good Democrats.
One of them died recently, having waged a courageous battle with cancer. She showed everybody how it ought to be done.
And her politically star-studded funeral observances are part of a string of events, like hurricanes and then the Labor Day holidays, that have pushed the governor’s race to the back of mind for many voters.
That’s all to the good for Gov. John Bel Edwards, the single Democrat elected statewide, who wants to keep his job in the Oct. 12 primary election.
The recent news cycle has helped to make the campaigns of the two prominent Republicans challenging him, Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, into almost second-tier political occasions.
Their poor campaign aides must be wondering what’s going to happen next to keep the campaign off the radar of the electorate — maybe an earthquake in Louisiana?
Perhaps the focus on the campaign will resume during the debates, including a televised LSU forum on Sept. 19. And maybe there is a pool of committed Republicans out there who will turn out Edwards because of his party affiliation alone.
But once even Labor Day was past, one of Louisiana’s towering distractions continued to get in the way of the GOP message: Edwin W. Edwards.
The good news is that it was a short-term complaint that sent him to a Baton Rouge hospital at age 92. Looks like he’ll be fine.
The bad news for Rispone and Abraham backers is that he contributed to yet another day of coverage of something, anything, other than them.
He’s a convicted felon and emblem of bad government from way back, but Edwards’s great age has probably softened the public’s view of the disasters that accompanied several of his four terms in office.
Interestingly, Edwards’ deplorable record is no barrier to his elder status among the living former governors.
And no one is more responsible for that rehabilitation than John Bel Edwards.
The current governor is no relation, but he has remained close — surprisingly, for a shrewd political mind — to the older man, whatever baggage that might entail.
The elder was a political ally of the governor’s late father, the powerful sheriff of Tangipahoa Parish. Whatever the optics of association with a felon, the incumbent governor has acted from an older code of political loyalty.
At the elder Edwards’ debut in political society after prison, John Bel Edwards attended the tribute dinner at the Monteleone Hotel in New Orleans. The younger man was then the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives.
As that event included many of both parties, hardly a hair was turned. And as governor, the younger man has continued to provide Edwards support at public events. The governor attended events honoring Edwards, for example.
Perhaps the invitations from the sitting governor were gifts to the old man, although Edwin Edwards has never lacked for attention: Even after serving his time, he emerged with characteristic élan, marrying a much younger woman and starting a second family at a time of life when most of us would count ourselves fortunate to be upright in a chair beside the pool.
Perhaps because African American voters have remained loyal to Edwin Edwards, the younger man might see some political benefit in friendship with the older man, but this seems tangential to the issues — such as they are — that might be on the minds of voters in the next four weeks.
Will the Republicans make an issue of Edwin Edwards? Seems less than relevant, as he left office in January 1996. Even John Bel Edwards’ complaints about his predecessor Bobby Jindal, who left office almost four years ago, may seem rather dated in the minds of many voters.
Email Lanny Keller at email@example.com.