Historically, that office has paid off poorly for politicians wanting to use it as a springboard to leverage into the governorship, with since the nineteenth century only former Gov. Kathleen Blanco proceeding immediately from that office elected to the other. But these perhaps are not ordinary times. As first articulated in this space and now becoming more accepted by the interested public, Gov. Bobby Jindal’s immediate political future outside of his present position likely would be as the Republicans’ vice presidential candidate, and that may mean leaving office a year after a presumably easy cruise to reelection next year.
Thus, whoever wins this special election would become the favorite to win the regular one next year, and then take over if Jindal is on the national ticket and, as is looking increasingly likely, that ticket wins the White House in 2012. Unless your name is Sammy Kershaw or Melanie McKnight.
Kershaw, a 2007 candidate who finished second and noted entertainer, and the minor candidate McKnight, Republicans both, say they have no ambition to be governor. Kershaw goes further and implies if having that office thrust upon him, he would stay in it just as long to appoint a successor then hand in a resignation in time to schedule the quickest special election possible. However, the Louisiana Constitution would not permit this; instead, with an unelected lieutenant governor the elected secretary of state would become governor which well could be, ironically enough, fellow Republican candidate Sec. of State Jay Dardenne. (Potentially, Kershaw could appoint himself acting lieutenant governor, then resign before confirmation, and then would have to run in another special election to keep the job.)
And reviewing the rhetoric coming out of the campaigns also makes it appear that this trio are the only candidates that really focus mainly, if not exclusively, on issues facing the actual responsibilities assigned to the office – culture, recreation, and tourism. While others speak as if they would rather be in charge of economic development, workforce matters, or of directing tax policy, these three seem to be the most genuinely interested in taking the office as it is, not what they seem to hope, if they won’t admit it, where it turns out to lead them.
This highlights the political acumen of Dardenne, known to be extremely progressively ambitious in politics. That and a well-tested campaign organization have got him on top of polling and he can be expected to make a runoff. Months ago, winning outright without a general election runoff seemed possible for Dardenne, but with some big money especially among Democrats rolling in now a runoff seems more likely, meaning the question is who will join him.
At present this seems unclear, but it might be a pleasant surprise if Louisiana voters chose for a runoff and also ultimately somebody who actually seems committed to the (very limited) job as is, rather than as a means to an unrelated end.