BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Less than a year into his time in Washington, Senator John Kennedy is picking yet another fight with Louisiana's governor, raising questions as to whether the freshman senator could be gearing up for a future run for the state's top office.
In a video statement released earlier this week, Kennedy railed against new criminal justice reform laws backed by Governor John Bel Edwards. "Our Louisiana Department of Corrections is utterly incompetent to administer this piece of legislation," Kennedy said.
During the spring 2017 legislative session, lawmakers passed a package of ten laws overhauling Louisiana's prison system. The laws aimed to reduce the state's top-ranked prison population. Louisiana incarcerates more people per capita than any other state.
Kennedy blamed Edwards for jamming the bills through the state capitol. This, despite the legislation receiving widespread, bipartisan support from lawmakers.
In an interview Friday, Kennedy brushed aside questions about his critique of the governor, saying he is simply worried about public safety. "People should see this and say, 'Kennedy is concerned about an ill-advised program,'" he said.
However, political analyst, Jim Engster, says Kennedy may be looking toward the 2019 gubernatorial race. "It wouldn't be at all surprising for John Kennedy to make the announcement that he is running for governor sometime in the next 90 days," he said.
On Thursday, Edwards returned fire. During a press conference, the governor said Kennedy is not being fair or honest. He noted that Kennedy never raised such concerns as the bills worked their way through the capitol, despite having many opportunities to do so. "This is just how he goes about his business. It's unfortunate," he said. "That's his M.O. He's 100 percent political all the time, and he's wrong most of the time."
On Friday, Kennedy responded, continuing the tit-for-tat. "He always says, 'Oh this is political. This isn't about politics. This is about public safety,'" Kennedy said.
And so, the fight begins, one that could last for at least the next two years. "We have the battle lines drawn and it should be a fascinating showdown between the two Johns if it happens in 2019," Engster said.
Kennedy is not the only name being floated as a potentional 2019 contender. Attorney General Jeff Landry, Congressman Garret Graves, and Congressman Steve Scalise are among those mentioned as folks to watch.