Louisiana Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy, a former Democrat and US Senate candidate, hired the North Star Opinion Research firm to help guide his political ambitions. Kennedy is reportedly considering running for governor or attorney general in 2015. His name is also mentioned in conjunction with the 2016 US Senate contest.
The North Star survey research (Jan. 10-13; 600 registered Louisiana voters) tested Kennedy within a field of candidates first for governor, and then for attorney general as well as for US Senate.
Currently, with Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) ineligible to seek a third term later this year, Sen. David Vitter (R) has jumped into the off-year gubernatorial race. Also considering running are Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, State Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, and Kennedy. State Rep. John Bel Edwards is the lone Democrat to express interest in running. Should Kennedy decide on the attorney general’s race, that impending field so far consists of incumbent Buddy Caldwell (R), who is politically weak, and former Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3). Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy is the one Democrat tested.
The 2016 US Senate picture will largely be dictated by what happens in the governor’s race. Should Sen. Vitter win, and he’s the early favorite, an individual will be appointed to fill the unexpired two years of his current term. This would likely give the appointed incumbent a particular advantage in the 2016 campaign. At this early point, the only person already asking to be appointed, and will run statewide whether or not he becomes the interim senator, is Shreveport Rep. John Fleming (R-LA-4).
The North Star poll tested the Senate race without Vitter in the field, adding New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu (D) and Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-3), in addition to Fleming and Kennedy. Neither Landrieu nor Boustany have indicated publicly that they are even considering a Senate run.
The gubernatorial numbers do show Vitter leading the jungle primary (scheduled for Oct. 24), but with a 24 percent number that is lower than those found in several other early surveys. In second place, coalescing the Democratic vote, is state Rep. Edwards at 20 percent. Kennedy polls 13 percent, ahead of Lt. Gov. Dardenne (10 percent) and Commissioner Angelle (2 percent).
On the other hand, should Kennedy decide to challenge Attorney General Caldwell, North Star suggests he would have the inside track toward doing so. Kennedy would top the AG field at 23 percent, followed by Roy at 18 percent, incumbent Caldwell posting only 17 percent, while Landry pulls 10 percent.
But, the suggested Senate numbers are of greater interest. Testing without Sen. Vitter in the race, it is Mayor Landrieu who would top the field at 39 percent. Kennedy is second with 18 percent; Boustany polls 13 percent; and Fleming brings up the rear with only 7 percent support. Adding the party numbers together, Landrieu, the sole Democrat, scores 39 percent to the combined Republicans’ 38 percent.
At this early stage, it appears that the jungle primary campaigns for governor, attorney general, and Senate in 2016 appear headed for run-off decisions. This is not particularly surprising since each race will have large candidate fields.
How much will change between now and when the individuals will have to decide whether or not to become candidates – the 2015 candidate filing deadline is not until Sept. 10 – is anybody’s guess, but taking into account Republican under-polling in the South and Vitter’s previous track record, and the relative weakness of his opponents, it’s difficult to see a scenario where he loses the governor’s race.
That being said, the 2016 US Senate race appears to be anybody’s game. Republicans are certainly favored today, but even the early data suggests a Democrat such as Mayor Landrieu would prove himself a highly competitive candidate.