Louisiana Congressman Cedric Richmond resigned this week announcing he will take a new position as a senior staffer in the new Biden White House. And within hours, the rumor mills began as political insiders started considering the domino effect of such a change. The repercussions of a Biden presidency could well affect other Louisiana officials from the governor on down.
There’s a whole list of potential candidates to fill the open congressional seat. Early favorites seem to be former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, state Sen. Troy Carter, state Sen. Cleo Fields and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson. But the first primary election date won’t take place until early spring. So there’s plenty of time for other candidates to weigh their chances and get into the mix. The district has a black majority of registered voters, and stretches from throughout New Orleans, across parts of Jefferson Parish and all the way up to Baton Rouge along the river Mississippi River.
But what about current Gov. John Bel Edwards? Could he be tapped for a top job in a Biden administration? And if so, would he be interested? After all, he still has some three years to serve in his current term. Why would he give up the governorship to take on some new challenge?
Edwards is term-limited, so he will be out of public office in 2024. Most political observers feel his options are limited as far as any other elective office in the state. Many pundits gave him little chance to be elected to the state’s highest office or even to be re-elected in a state that has become dark red and overwhelmingly Republican in registration.
Some have suggested the governor may consider a run against U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, who comes up for re-election in the fall of 2022. But Kennedy remains popular in the state and is a consummate fundraiser.
Edwards would have an uphill challenge to take on Louisiana’s junior senator.
In the past, Kennedy has shown serious interest in running for governor himself. Edwards would then have the option, if Kennedy were elected governor, to finish his current term in office, then run for Kennedy’s vacant seat in the U.S. Senate. But control of the U.S. Senate could well be in the balance, so Edwards could expect massive financial Republican opposition from all over the nation.
So if he passes on such a scenario, what other options does the governor have? He could go back to his roots and resume his law practice in Amite. But you know what they say. Give a country boy a whiff of all the big-time political surroundings and it’s hard to go back home. And being the only Democratic governor from a deep southern state, could the Biden team offer up a political plum in the nation’s capitol?
Yes, the political rumors are already spreading. A logical choice would be for this West Point graduate and Army Ranger to be appointed as Secretary of the Army. A second option would be for this pro-life devoted Catholic to become the U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. Bets are that if Edwards were offered either position, he would jump at such an opportunity.
That leaves a vacancy in the governor’s office, to be filled until the 2023 election by Billy Nungesser, the lieutenant governor. He’s been eyeing the state’s top job since being easily re-elected last year. And he has been a committed and aggressive salesman for the Bayou State, criss crossing Louisiana in a high-profile manner.
Nungesser is a more moderate Republican state official who has been successful at working well with both parties. If Edwards vacates his present job as governor, it would give the lieutenant governor a leg up in being elected to the top spot in 2023.
The domino effect could lead to a number of changes in the coming months. So we will all be watching. There is never a dull moment in Louisiana politics.
Jim Brown is a former Commissioner of Insurance,Secretary of State and state senator from Ferriday. His past columns can be read at www.jimbrownusa.com.