BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-LA) announced Monday that he will not run for governor in 2019, surprising politicians and experts across the state.
Kennedy flirted with the idea of running for months, but said he thinks he can do the most good for Louisiana in the Senate.
“I think John Kennedy knew he’d be in a tough race,” political analyst Jim Engster said. “At his age at 67, he’s got a day job that’s quite intense and he’s getting gobs of national attention. He loves the spotlight he’s under, and in the end, I think he decided to stay where he was rather than run for his 11th race in 27 years.”
Kennedy was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2016. Before that, he served as Louisiana’s treasurer for 17 years.
Engster said the delayed announcement leaves the Republican party without a clear front-runner. Only one candidate has announced: Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.
“John Kennedy was blocking all the other Republicans who were considering the race from getting in while he was playing Hamlet on the bayou,” Engster said. “Now, with ten months and nine days to go, the Republicans essentially don’t have a candidate.”
“It would seem that John Bel Edwards is in the same position Bobby Jindal was in 2011. He’s on cruise control, right now, to re-election," Engster said.
The Edwards re-election campaign accused Kennedy of attention-seeking, but Edwards said his hope is that Kennedy “will make it a priority to work together with me and the entire congressional delegation to get things done for the hard working families of this state.”
Kennedy, Attorney General Jeff Landry, Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser, former Shaw group CEO Jim Bernhard, and Reps. Steve Scalise and Garret Graves have all announced they will not seek the office in 2019. Engster said that leaves Ralph Abraham as the most likely person to win the Republican party’s support, although he has not announced yet.
State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, and treasurer John Schroder are also considered potential candidates.
“I love being in the United States Senate. I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2019,” Kennedy said in an official release on Monday. “I will, however, continue to work hard every day in D.C. and Louisiana for jobs, economic growth, cheaper health insurance, a stronger military, and an end to government waste. I am fortunate to sit on powerful Senate committees that provide a venue to do that. It is such an honor to represent the people of Louisiana in the United States Senate. Right now, that’s where I think I can do the most good.”
The Louisiana gubernatorial election will be Oct. 12, 2019.
You can read Kennedy’s full statement here:
“Last month, three of my Senate colleagues, two of my House colleagues, and I met in Beijing with Premier Li Keqiang, the second ranking Chinese government official, and others to discuss several issues. The State Department asked us in particular to lobby China to stop Chinese citizens from exporting synthetic fentanyl and the ingredients to make it to Mexico, from which fentanyl enters the United States. We hammered hard. This weekend, President Xi Jinping, meeting with President Trump, announced that China would designate fentanyl a “controlled substance” subject to the maximum penalty under Chinese law. Fentanyl killed more Americans last year than we lost during the entirety of the Vietnam War. Much of it came to the United States from China. The credit for this breakthrough goes to Presidents Trump and Xi, but it sure made me feel like our trip to Beijing was worthwhile.
I love being in the United States Senate. I will not be a candidate for Governor in 2019. I will, however, continue to work hard every day in D.C. and Louisiana for jobs, economic growth, cheaper health insurance, a stronger military, and an end to government waste. I am fortunate to sit on powerful Senate committees that provide a venue to do that. It is such an honor to represent the people of Louisiana in the United States Senate. Right now, that’s where I think I can do the most good.
I hope someone runs for Governor who understands that Louisiana state government does not have to be a big, slow, dumb, wasteful, sometimes corrupt, spend-money-like-it-was-ditchwater, anti-taxpayer, top down institution. I love Louisiana as much as I love my country, and the people of my state deserve a state government as good as they are.
Thank you to the many people who offered me advice about my decision. I listened carefully. You taught me a lot.
Finally, I want to thank the many constituents who encouraged me to run. Your support humbles me. It is my honor to serve you in the United States Senate. You, and your families, are the reason I get up to do this job each and every day.”