Late Hammond attorney C.B. Forgotston, a go-to source for reporters and state legislators during the Jindal and Foster administrations, would have worn out his keyboard over the past few weeks if he was still with us.
I do know, however, what the columnist and blogger would have said this week when U.S. Sen. John Kennedy announced, after much speculation, that he would not be running for governor. That’s because C.B. already wrote it, seven years ago.
So here it is, and yes, his sentences are definitely worth cutting, pasting and repeating.
“Making a decision of what one is NOT going to do is NOT something one takes lightly. After NOT conferring with my family, friends and supporters I have reached a final decision about what I am NOT going to do.
“Among the many things that I am NOT going to do, I am NOT going be a candidate for governor in this fall’s election.
“I know that this decision will NOT be a surprise to anyone … However, my failure to announce what I was NOT going to do has prevented others from announcing what they are NOT going to do.
“This decision to NOT run should NOT be interpreted as I have ruled out future consideration of NOT running for political office.
“Finally, I will NOT be accepting requests for interviews from the media about my decision NOT to run. I’ve already taken too much time away from my primary focus. As such, I intend to get back to the business of deciding what else I am NOT going to do.”
With that out of the way, we know two things to be certain heading into December 2018. For starters, Forgotston was on to something. (Seriously.) Secondly, Kennedy must be happier than a hound dog sitting on a porch chewing on a catfish head.
The senator artfully captured the previous week’s news cycle by promising to announce his decision on the 2019 governor’s race by Saturday. He then changed his mind and punted to Monday, which, in turn, extended the Kennedy mania into this week's news cycle.
Such control and patience, coupled with a complete disregard for the rest of the field, the donor class and the Republican Party’s desire to get the ball rolling ahead of 2019, would have made him a heavy and unpredictable hitter. But what role will he play now from the sidelines? Does Kennedy have the stuff to be a kingmaker? Or does he hold firm to his designation of lone wolf?
Kennedy remains a provocative wild card that the working press and the middle-class electorate cannot get enough of, even in today’s jam-packed media landscape. Kennedy is, after all, the P.T. Barnum of modern Louisiana politics — that is, he’s a master marketer and a professional promoter. Whatever he wants to do, he'll do, and my fellow reporters and I will be around to tell you about it, whether you need to know or not. Such is the way of our political circus.
The senator's decision leaves Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and businessman and education advocate Eddie Rispone, a Republican, as the only announced candidates for the next year’s big race. Meanwhile, Congressman Ralph Abraham of northeast Louisiana is seriously considering the contest, along with Treasurer John Schroder and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, both from St. Tammany Parish. All three are with the GOP.
All other major Republicans are steering of clear of the developing fray. For now, at least. If another pair of hardline conservatives eventually jump in, though, more could follow suit. With a crowded field, 18 percent to 22 percent of the vote could be enough to make the runoff. That sort of math will likely sound appealing to some. Yet it could also mean a primary where the Republicans would be aiming water balloons at each other, rather than the Democrat. If that sounds familiar, that’s because the 2015 race for governor was exactly that kind of balloon fight.
Of course, it didn’t have to go down this way for Republicans. Kennedy saying no to the 2019 ballot amounted to returning a silver platter without the receipt. The race, at least on the Republican side, was being served up for Kennedy to a certain degree, even if the field wasn’t perfectly clean. Not since 2007, when former U.S. Sen. John Breaux took to flirting with the state’s premier office, has a gubernatorial bid been offered up so freely by a party apparatus and its mainline soldiers.
Kennedy could have simply turned his back on the race, rather than turning up the noise. Then again, as C.B. Forgotston put it, making a decision of what one is NOT going to do is NOT something one takes lightly.