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In this file photo, La. Attorney General Jeff Landry speaks in Baton Rouge in March 2018. 

Led by U.S. Sen John N. Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry, Louisiana Republicans have spent much of the summer reminding party faithful of how their positions differ from those held by a Democratic governor — the only one in the Deep South — who remains relatively popular, partly because he shares many of those same social ideas.

Flak over a wide range of issues, such as the death penalty and criminal justice reforms, has covered the skies as Louisiana approaches the 2019 gubernatorial election.

Though some polls show Edwards’ popularity is slipping a little, it has proven harder than anticipated to rally the red base against a blue executive who agrees with them on some of their more passionate positions, such as abortion.

But the GOP does have some wiggle room on some issues.

For instance, Edwards supports expanding Medicaid to provide health care coverage for the working poor under the eight-year-old Affordable Care Act that many Republicans still are trying to dismantle.

This helps explain Landry’s blood-simple comments about a federal judge’s technical decision last week that, if upheld on appeal, could, eventually, lead to $839.2 million in refunds. Louisiana’s share would be $172.5 million.

Basically, the argument is over whether a charge for Medicaid and the Child Health Insurance Program under the ACA is a tax, which Congress forbids, or a fee, which is OK. But that wasn’t what the ruling was about. What was decided was how to skirt sovereign immunity so the states could get their money.

Landry’s take on social media and in news releases was the ruling exposed, finally, Obamacare as “a money laundering scheme.”

And how to find a difference of opinion on gun rights, which Edwards also supports?

After all, this former commander of a U.S. Army combat-ready unit went hunting to relax after an unrelenting few months of devastating floods, racial protests, and a deadly ambush of police. He downed an elk.

Landry and Kennedy argue that policies announced by two of the world’s largest banks in the wake of the shootings at a Parkland, Florida school amount to a naked attempt to deny Louisiana citizens of their Second Amendment constitutional rights to buy guns.

Citigroup Inc. would stop doing business with retailers peddling guns to customers under the age of 21, along with some other restrictions. Bank of America Merrill Lynch would no longer lend money to manufacture military-like firearms for civilian use, such as the AR-15-style rifles.

Both denied that their actions violated anyone’s constitutional rights.

Executive Brandee McHale argued that Citi does little, if any, business in Louisiana with gun retailers not part of big national chains that already had adopted the same policy on their own. Besides, all of Citibank’s customers could use their credit card to buy arms and ammunition regardless of whether the retailer complied with corporate policies. (Landry counters that the credit card insurance won’t replace stolen or broken guns the way the bank will for, say, a television.)

Where some Republicans and Edwards differ is the point at which this issue should be part of the solicitation for handling the bonds that will pay for widening of Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge and easier access into the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, along with other projects.

Edwards called it “an ugly display of political posturing.” He and his supporters fear that excluding banks based on corporate policies jeopardizes highway improvements.

Citi and Bank of America already underwrite about 23 percent of the state’s bond business. The two have won competitive bids on 11 of 29 state bond deals valued at $2.67 billion between 2013 and 2017.

On a national level, Bank of America and Citi handled 447 bonds worth more than the next four investment banks put together – in the first half of 2018 alone, according to Thomson Reuters.

“If you eliminate the top two players, to some extent, you eliminate competition,” Alan Schankel told The Advocate Friday. He is managing director and municipal strategist for Janney Montgomery Scott LLC, of Philadelphia.

But the impact on the Louisiana taxpayer, who is paying the cost of the bonds, likely won't be substantial.

“At the end of the day, it’s a political statement and they can do it if that’s what they choose. There may be some blowback, in terms of interest rates and increased administrative costs, but at the end of the day, those costs won’t be significant,” Schankel said.

The Bond Commission on a 7-6 vote said the two banks should be excluded in the upcoming $600 million bond sale.

Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter, @MarkBallardCnb.