John Kennedy won’t run for Louisiana governor in 2019

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Saying he “can do the most good” where he’s at now, Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy announced Monday he won’t run for Louisiana governor next year.

Kennedy, who was the state’s elected treasurer for 17 years and became a U.S. senator in 2016, ramped up speculation in recent interviews about whether he would seek the state’s highest office, a move that would have pitted him against Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.

“I love being in the United States Senate. I will not be a candidate for governor in 2019,” Kennedy said in a statement. “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.”

Kennedy, an attorney, said he can work on those efforts on “powerful committees” in the senate. He's on the Appropriations; Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs; Budget; Judiciary; and Small Business and Entrepreneurship committees.

Edwards said Kennedy raised speculation about a run for office to focus the spotlight on himself.

“For Sen. Kennedy, this was never about the people of Louisiana,” Edwards said in a statement. “Now that this is behind us, my hope is that he 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 has clashed with Edwards a number of times over the past few years over budget, policy, and criminal justice reform issues.

That criticism didn’t stop Monday, despite the fact that Louisiana’s state budget has stabilized under Edwards, who enacted a number of control measures and refused to fund ongoing priorities with non-recurring revenue.

“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,” Kennedy said. “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.”

Edwards, who in 2019 is about to enter his fourth year in office, defended his time in office as a Democrat working with a GOP majority in both legislative chambers.

“I'm proud of my record as governor,” Edwards said. “Over the past three years we've started to clean up the mess we inherited, stabilized funding for critical services, and are running a budget surplus even after reducing the tax burden on the people of Louisiana by $600 million.”

Edwards was referring to budget deficits he inherited from former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, temporary revenue-raising measures that were enacted to boost spending when the state’s economy faltered, and efforts to ensure adequate funding for budget priorities going forward.

In August, S&P Global Ratings revised its outlook on the state’s general obligation bond rating to stable from negative and affirmed its AA-minus rating. The action came after state lawmakers in June voted to extend a portion of a 1% sales tax through 2025 to avoid steep budget cuts in the current fiscal year and beyond.

In July, Moody's Investors Service cited the state’s stabilized budget while revising its outlook to stable from negative on Louisiana's Aa3 rating.

While Fitch Ratings commented on the state’s budgeting problems the past few years, it maintained a stable outlook on the AA-minus rating it assigned to the GOs.

“More people are working in Louisiana than ever before, our state’s gross domestic product is at an all-time high, and we are securing the largest economic development projects in our state’s history,” Edwards said Monday. “The state and our people are much better off now than they were three years ago, and I look forward to another 5 years of putting the people of Louisiana first.”

Louisiana’s gubernatorial primary is Oct. 12, 2019. The general election is Nov. 16, 2019, and the winner will take office in early 2020.

Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone has declared his intent to pursue the GOP nomination for governor. Other candidates have said they are considering a run for the office.

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Elections State budgets John Bel Edwards State of Louisiana Louisiana Washington DC