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2019 Louisiana politics: The calm before the gubernatorial storm

From: Baton Rouge Business Report

When U.S. Sen. John Kennedy defied conventional political wisdom in late November, announcing he wouldn’t be challenging Gov. John Bel Edwards in the fall election, some assumed the contest was over before it had really begun.

Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone, though well-funded and popular with hardcore conservatives, has little statewide name recognition. Similarly, first-term U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, the only establishment Republican to throw his hat in the ring, is from tiny Alto in north Louisiana and not well known in the southern part of the state, home to two thirds of the electorate.

But Edwards isn’t taking anything for granted and despite the lack of big names, the 2019 governor’s race will hardly be a sleeper. Here’s what to watch for:

> The national GOP and out-of-state PACs will throw a lot of money at this contest. They want to flip the Governor’s Mansion in one of their solid red states and already have the popular Edwards in their crosshairs.

> You’ll hear a lot about taxes and how much they’ve increased under Edwards. (Though Edwards will counter he inherited a budget mess from his predecessor and managed to balance the budget and rein in capital spending for the first time in decades.)

> You’ll see support for Edwards from some you might not expect. Moderate Republican business leaders are coalescing behind the governor, despite the D behind his name.

> Abraham will do better than you might think. He’s a likable family guy with a wife of 43 years and nine grandchildren. He’s also a farmer, a veterinarian, a medical doctor and a pilot with the U.S. Coast Guard auxiliary. That’s a lot of boxes checked.

> Don’t be surprised by a last-minute entry. It’s anyone’s guess who that might be, but seasoned pundits don’t believe the field is set just yet.