With the exception of the Baton Rouge mayor's race and the 3rd Congressional District contest, Saturday's runoff elections didn't carry a whole lot of suspense.
The next chapter in state politics, though, could get interesting, as a bunch of dominoes set in motion by the weekend results could start to tip.
Take the state treasurer's office. John Kennedy may have run as an outsider, but he's held the post since 2000, and his easy victory for U.S. Senate leaves an appealing opening for politicians looking for a statewide perch that can lead to bigger things. Kennedy is the second state treasurer to win a Senate seat in modern times, along with former Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, so the job definitely qualifies as a stepping stone.
John N. Kennedy was sitting in his state treasurer’s office several years ago one afternoon …
Expect the field to replace Kennedy to be crowded and to include at least a handful of legislators. Among the potential successors, according to a list compiled by LaPolitics Weekly's Jeremy Alford, are state Reps. John Schroder, Julie Stokes and Paul Hollis, along with state Sens. Neil Riser and Norby Chabert and former House Speaker Chuck Kleckley.
These aren't the only legislators who seem to have itchy feet these days, which is no surprise given the likelihood of at least one special session in Baton Rouge next year, following nearly constant sessions during the first half of 2016. Legislators are spending an awful lot of time away from their districts — and their families. And given the state's ongoing budget woes, they're not able to bring home much bacon when they do get home.
Another well-known lawmaker who could be eyeing the exit is state Sen. Danny Martiny, who chairs the Commerce Committee and the GOP Senate delegation. He told Alford that he's considering going for the Jefferson Parish council seat that Ben Zahn will vacate after being elected Kenner mayor Saturday.
If he leaves, Martiny, who is a year into his final four-year term, would join a virtual stampede from the Jefferson Parish delegation. Already departed since winning re-election just last year are former state Reps. Joe Lopinto and Bryan Adams, who left for not-elected jobs, and Tom Willmott, who was elected in November to the Kenner City Council. If Stokes goes for treasurer and wins, that would be yet another Jefferson Parish departure.
A similar exodus could be shaping up in New Orleans later this year, when municipal elections take place. Among the veteran lawmakers who may be eyeing a job closer to home are state Reps. Walt Leger, Helena Moreno and Joe Bouie, and state Sens. J.P. Morrell, Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter, who just returned to the Legislature last year more than two decades after he first served.
Saturday's results could even shuffle the 2019 governor's race. Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who finished third in last year's primary, lost his bid for the 3rd Congressional District seat despite being the early front-runner. Angelle was widely expected to cool his heels in Congress for a few years before going for governor again, just as his former boss, ex-Gov. Bobby Jindal, did. His embarrassing loss to newcomer Clay Higgins, a fellow Republican who tapped into the same anti-establishment sentiment as Donald Trump, pretty much takes him out of the game.
Very much in it, though, is Kennedy, whose lopsided victory over Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell sets him up as a force in state Republican politics, and one of several possible successors to his ally, outgoing U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who has been the party's top dog of late. It didn't seem at all accidental that Kennedy vowed Saturday to keep a hand in state issues from Washington; Vitter helped consolidate his own power by doing exactly that.
That's a whole lot of potential upheaval, but it doesn't mean there won't be islands of stability.
One is the Public Service Commission, which could have lost two of its five members had Saturday's election turned out differently. For now, expect Angelle, the regulatory panel's chairman, and Campbell, a longtime member, to be staying put. Hey, nobody said they had to be happy about it.