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Story Archives: Kennedy and the 'Christians'
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|Kennedy and the 'Christians'|
If state Treasurer John Kennedy is serious about taking on U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in this fall's elections, Kennedy needs to do what every Republican candidate for a statewide office in the Deep South must do if he or she harbors any hope of being successful on election day.
That means Kennedy needs to handle his "Christian" business.
More specifically, Kennedy needs to shore up his support among evangelical voters in Louisiana, who, by and large, don't care much for the senior senator from New Orleans. That's putting it mildly.
Kennedy, though, must give the evangelicals a reason to back him instead of some other Republican who may be thinking about entering the race for the Republican nomination, knowing it's the ticket for the right to oppose Landrieu. That yet-to-surface Republican, no doubt, will rear his or her head if Kennedy fails to lock down the 'Christians' in short order. The clock is ticking on that front.
That's especially true in Louisiana today in light of the move toward closed primary elections, meaning the Democrats will pick their candidate for the Senate while Republicans will elect their own prior to the general election in November. The primaries will be held in October.
Landrieu is a lock for the Democratic nomination; the Republican nomination is up for grabs, but Kennedy has an inside track in securing it in spite of his recent switch from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party.
Let us recall for a moment that a movement existed in Louisiana for years to conduct closed primary elections, which fell by the wayside following the 1971 gubernatorial campaign.
Back in '71, a young congressman from Crowley, Edwin W. Edwards, battled then state-Sen. J. Bennett Johnston for the Democratic nomination for governor. Edwards won a hard-fought campaign against Johnston by a 5,000-vote margin. Edwards went on to easily defeat the Republican nominee in the general election.
Who was the Republican nominee for governor in '71?
In those days, Democrats controlled Louisiana; Republicans were few and far between.
In other words, Democrats often beat up each other to secure their party's nomination, while Republicans had few choices in tapping their candidate who was destined to lose in the general election. The numbers simply didn't add up for a Republican candidate back then.
Times were changing, though.
The Republican Party was growing in Louisiana. That was the case throughout the Deep South amid an era of civil unrest and integration.
Edwards recognized it.
Following the gubernatorial race in '71, Edwards, the new governor, complained, too, that he was forced to spend a great deal of time and money winning the Democratic nomination, while a fresh Republican awaited him.
What did Edwards do?
He did what did best.
He simply changed state law to his liking, or 'convinced' the Legislature to change state law. That paved the way for the famous open primary elections, which remain in place today in Louisiana.
Edwards felt an open primary would weed out the Republicans among a crowded field of Democrats.
Edwards was right.
It worked well for Democrats for years.
That all will change this year, though, in light of the Legislature's decision recently to conduct closed primary elections in congressional races.
That brings us back to the "Christians," or evangelical voters, who, for all practical purposes, vote Republican.
They are very conservative voters for the most part.
They are a powerful lot, too.
They vote, or they'll get mad and not vote.
Either way, a Republican in the Deep South, including Louisiana, must court the "Christian" vote to secure the Republican nomination. Moreover, a Republican nominee must have the evangelicals in his or her corner in a statewide campaign against a Democrat, especially an incumbent like Landrieu.
How does Kennedy convince the evangelicals he's the one who can knock off Landrieu in November?
More important, how does Kennedy convince the evangelicals he's "one of them?"
He needs to start writing checks.
Those checks should be made payable to the horde political consultants in Louisiana who make their living manipulating Republican candidates and evangelical voters alike all in the spirit of delivering the "Christian" vote for the Republican candidate who's willing to pay for it.
|Frank Morris Murder Series|