State Rep. John Bel Edwards, a relatively unknown Democrat from a rural Amite, will be the state's next governor after toppling Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., in one of the biggest political upsets in the state's history.Numbers are still coming in as I'm typing but look at it! It's 55-45 or thereabouts. That's about the max of what I had considered possible in my most optimistic moments this week. (I was less confident by the end of it but.. HAPPY TO BE WRONG) This was a complete drubbing. Vitter, once a dominant and feared figure in state politics, was beaten so badly he announced tonight that he's not even going to run for reelection to his Senate seat next year.
Some quick reactions:
- Vitter giving up his Senate seat will be good news for Charles Boustany and John Kennedy. The two have been conspicuous supporters of Vitter throughout the campaign and it's no secret that they both are interested in inheriting the office he's vacating. Neither will have to suffer the embarrassment of turning right around to run against him now.
Kennedy, shameless as ever, was quick to leap in front of a camera and begin kissing John Bel's butt the minute the race was called. He also said the state budget was like "Thelma and Louise headed toward that ditch," which sounds.. bad.. I guess? But maybe heroic.. it's not really that clear. Anyway, now that Vitter is going away and Bobby Jindal is almost gone, smarmy phony John Kennedy is probably the worst person in state politics right now. He's one of the favorites to be your next Senator.
- Clancy DuBos kept talking about how "stunning" it was that David Vitter lost his "home parish." Sure, it's notable. And it does tell you a lot about how bad a night it was for him. But "stunning" isn't the word simply because it can't come as much of a surprise. Just this week, even at the height of Vitter's refugee barrage, 25 Jefferson Parish politicos endorsed Edwards including, of course, Sheriff Newell Normand who we already know has an ax to grind with Vitter. If you're trying to win Jefferson Parish, it's not a great idea to be enemies with Newell Normand.
- TV newspersons also could not stop fawning over the "gentlemanly" manner in which Billy Nungesser and Kip Holden agreed not to attack one another during the runoff. Given the dirt these candidates could have slung at one another, it's likely this collusion was arrived at more out of a sense of mutually assured destruction than it was out of any sense of "civility." But our newspersons do enjoy their little fantasies about the nobility of our so-called leaders.
- Jeff Landry was elected Attorney General immediately making him the smart pick in next year's State Officeholder Stupid Scandal office pool.
-Edwards specifically thanked Jay Dardenne in his speech tonight. We're looking forward to learning what Jay is getting for his endorsement.
- The conventional wisdom post-mortem on this election will conclude that Vitter lost more than Edwards won. That's only partially true. Yes, it contrasts with the party line results in the other statewide races. And, yes, it is primarily a rebuke of the most despised person in state politics. But saying the result is just about those things unduly discounts the very well run Edwards campaign. Sure, Vitter's damaged status provided the opportunity, but greater opportunities than this one have been squandered by many an inept candidate.
I didn't care for the "Prostitutes over Patriots" ad and I thought the "me too" stand on refugees was pretty low (and potentially damaging) but otherwise it was a disciplined and sneaky smart campaign. Edwards proved to be a talented candidate. Bright but affable and not easily rattled, Edwards held up well in both debates. He presented as calm, clear-eyed, and "grown-up" without sounding condescending or pandering.
His victory speech was remarkable. Edwards spoke earnestly about some themes that typically come off as tropes in these situations; "bipartisanship," "putting Louisiana first," etc. while also emphasizing some things that might sound controversial in another context; diversity, public education (emphasis on public), and "protecting the environment."
Edwards may not have been well known before now but he is well-liked and respected in Baton Rouge. He's also known as a smart, savvy "doer." Because of the unique circumstances of his election, the press is likely to underestimate him politically. But some important fights are coming up in the next legislative session. Perceptions may change as he starts winning some of those.
-By electing Edwards governor Louisiana immediately improves access to health coverage for some 225,000 residents. That's already huge.
- Finally, congratulations also to President Obama on another stunning electoral victory. Somewhere in Washington D.C. he's looking over these results and laughing with that one Syrian refugee Vitter told us John Bel sent up there to conspire with him. I hope he gave him a nice celebratory fist bump.