On long hot summer afternoons, the gap between the obsessions of the chattering classes around the State Capitol and the general population outside of it is most pronounced.
The former are wondering about the governor’s race and when it is going to start in earnest. Will the Republican challengers to incumbent John Bel Edwards go up on television? Will the South’s single Democratic governor win in October?
Among normal people, there are probably more questions about how to get the kids around to ballgames, and whether the briquets, steaks and ice cream are stocked for the cookouts.
And amid all the parsing of poll numbers engaged in by various political camps, most people are still probably not focused on the election at all. That will change, if only on the television screens.
It is an election year in Louisiana, for offices that in terms of day-to-day impact on the lives of our citizens at least rival those in the 2020 races.
These include not only the marquee race for governor but a significant number of open seats in the Legislature. The members of House and Senate are limited to 12 years in a row in their offices. Then, they either run for the other chamber, or for other offices, or retire.
That means a significant number of elections are going on, including some local offices in parts of the state. There are also, in eight districts around the state, elections to fill the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, an important body that attracts less attention, typically.
As The Advocate recently reported, the political environment in the state continues to shift in the direction of Republicans, although there have been a few defections from the legislative ranks. The changes are strictly divided by race; it is white Democrats falling, by 6% since January 2016, with Republicans and “independent,” or no-party, voter totals rising.
While the Louisiana governor’s race will get national attention, as it is one of only a few significant races in the country this year, it is still of most importance to us, the people of Louisiana, who deserve a political class that will focus on real problems and construct responsible solutions.
The issues in the last race, in 2015, were obscured by the controversy over the alleged affairs of the Republican candidate who lost to Edwards. This year, with the governor as an incumbent, he will run on his record; like most people, we’ll find parts of it we approve of and other parts less so.
But for both Edwards and likely Republican challengers Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, we hope that their discussions will not be entirely about why the others are bad guys, but about what we can realistically do — and very importantly, finance — to make our state a better place.
That might not be what the chattering classes are talking about now, but it’s what will make people pay more attention, once the fall rolls around.