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Politics aside, maybe Kennedy wants to be atty. gen.?

This space is called “Between the Lines” because it seeks to go beyond headlines and the surface presentation that the media provide (whether that be as a matter of course or by design to obscure larger issues) about political news in Louisiana, to get at the real story behind it all. But cocnerning news that Democrat state Treasurer John Kennedy is now thinking of running for attorney general, that’s a gambit I have trouble figuring out.

It’s well known that Kennedy would like to run for the Senate next year, perhaps switching parties to facilitate his chances at victory, and clearly holding a current state office and running a statewide campaign this year can only boost his chances of winning a statewide contest next year, Yet it doesn’t seem to make sense that launching such a bid as a rookie (with one year in) attorney general instead of a treasurer in his third term would be more advantageous.

There appear to be many reasons why, if the Senate is his ultimate goal, that an attempted lateral move like this has more disadvantages than advantages:

  • Kennedy would have no meaningful competition in a run for another term as treasurer. With over $2 million in campaign coffers, he could spend a good portion of this money in a campaign designed to blend easily into a Senate campaign, rather than have to parcel it out designed primarily to secure another statewide office.
  • A run for attorney general would be no cakewalk, by contrast. While politically wounded, the Democrat apparatus and good-old-boys in the state still would rally around incumbent Atty. Gen. Charles Foti – not just given his incumbency, but that Kennedy has been too reform-minded for their liking. Additionally, other challengers remain particularly a strong one from Republican attorney Royal Alexander. Kennedy could win, but it would not be easy and he very well could lose – a potential loss not the kind of impression he wants to have hanging over him as he immediately would turn around and begin a Senate run.
  • His current spot has provided a great platform for Kennedy to become the leading voice of reform from Louisiana’s executive branch. Frankly, the attorney general does little that captures headlines (unless, as has happened to Foti, he launches an ill-advised investigation which backfired politically) so if it’s publicity Kennedy would find helpful, even a successful outcome to the lateral move would be less likely to provide it.
  • It’s possible that other interests that could be helpful to his future campaigning are encouraging this move in conjunction with the party switch, because they think he could be the best Republican candidate against Foti, or, for their own reasons, they’d rather see him launch a Senate bid from this office than the treasury. However, again compared to where he is there just doesn’t seem to be a lot of potential upside here.

    Considering all of this, there seems just one reason why Kennedy would go in this direction – maybe he (who has a law degree) simply wants to be attorney general. If so, it would make little sense to take all sorts of electoral risks to get there, especially if he possibly could abandon it after a year. Even with a Senate attempt on his mind, perhaps he would see the attorney general job as one, should he fail next year, as the most desirable consolation prize. Appropriate to Occam’s Razor, it could be that simple.
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