Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, one of three Republican opponents of Democrat John Bel Edwards in the governor's race primary, crossed party lines Thursday (Nov. 5) to endorse Edwards over Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter. "The Republican brand has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal during this last term," Dardenne said in making his announcement. "David Vitter's governorship will further damage that brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign. I cannot and will not sit idly by and refuse to speak truth to power."
There was a lot of chatter this week about Republicans having a great Election Day 2015, but at its core, there was really only one key victory: Matt Bevin's (R) unexpectedly easy win in Kentucky's gubernatorial race. It was an important race, and Democrats had been optimistic about their chances, but the GOP flipped the seat in their favor.
Elsewhere, however, the news for Dems wasn't quite as bad, and there's a very real possibility that the sting of defeat in Kentucky may be eased by a possible victory in Louisiana. The Times-Picayune in New Orleans reported yesterday:
Note, Dardenne, the #2 Republican in the state, was himself a gubernatorial candidate this year, but he came up short against Sen. David Vitter (R). The expectation was that Republican officials would rally behind their nominee for the good of the party as the race headed to a runoff.
But the lieutenant governor has decided he just can't bring himself to back Vitter -- and he won't defend outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) failures, either.
The Times-Picayune added, "Endorsing a Democrat in a high-stakes general election carries significant risk for the Republican Dardenne's future political career, particularly if Vitter is ultimately elected governor." But Dardenne said he doesn't much care -- he's not running for anything again anyway.
To put it mildly, GOP leaders are not happy.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Roger Villere sent a letter to Dardenne, "strongly encouraging" him to "rethink" his support for John Bel Edwards.
Villere said in a press statement, "It is sad that Jay allowed his personal feelings to cause him to betray his party and state. The Republican Party stands firmly behind Senator Vitter."
Whether party voters agree is not yet clear. A recent poll showed Vitter trailing Edwards badly.
Election Day in Louisiana is Nov. 21, two weeks from tomorrow.