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Strain governor pursuit possibility good for conservatives

It’s never too early to think about this state’s highest office, and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain’s letting the cat out of the bag about his gubernatorial intentions for 2015 should come as welcome news for Louisiana conservatives.

As a legislator, Strain showed some conservative/reform credentials, averaging nearly 70 on the Louisiana Legislature Log index (where 100 is the maximum conservative/reform score) in his last term in office, capped with a 95 in his last term when he began to pursuit of his current job. In that office, he has upped the ante further with a dramatic reduction in his department’s size from its bloated condition under his predecessor, going from a budget of $102.7 million ($38.6 million from the state) with 829 employees in fiscal year 2008 to $78 million ($29.3 million from the state) with 644 employees in fiscal year 2012. He also has started to unwind some disastrous policy decisions from the past, such as with sugar mill boondoggles.

This real record of accomplishment gives Strain provable and consistent evidence that, not only has he governed more as a conservative than even Gov. Bobby Jindal, but also that he can be relied upon to do so in the future. Any potential Democrats aside, who may pretend to act as conservatives, as opponents, two other Republicans believed also to seek eventually the office cannot match this record.

Treasurer John Kennedy has talked a good game in some respects, peppering anybody who would listen with ideas about how to reduce the size of state government – some good, some sketchy, and even some entirely misinformed. The problem is, several years ago he talked a good game on behalf of liberalism when he veered left to try to win the 2004 U.S. Senate contest as a Democrat. This schizophrenia cost him in a retry in 2008, as enough voters, in a tough election year for Republicans which Kennedy by then had relabeled himself, could not be sure of his fidelity to limited government after hearing the opposite from him four years previous. Given that Strain has consistently articulated a moderate-to-strong conservative program, backed by legislative votes and actions in office, conservatives might feel better going with the guy who, while less demonstrative, has shown more genuine loyalty to conservatism.

While Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne never offered unqualified support to liberalism, his long career in government, much in the Legislature, has given him numerous opportunities that he exercised to support liberal preferences. Given this record, too many conservatives suspiciously regard him as more likely to go whichever way the wind blows rather than pursue conservatism when the pressure is on. Strain, by contrast, offers a much steadier record of support of conservatism.

Strain’s job may be the least exalted of the executive branch elected officials, with the fewest resources inherent to it to launch towards higher office. But, so far, he has a story to tell that will sound great to conservatives. His going for it gives conservatives an excellent choice to replace Jindal.