July 23, 2015 01:16 PM

Readers of The Independent’s story regarding John Bel Edwards’s surge in voter popularity reflected in Verne Kennedy’s recent poll should take note of another issue raised unintentionally by John Georges, one of the underwriters of the poll.

Georges is the wealthy New Orleans businessman and erstwhile candidate for governor who recently wrote a big check to buy The Advocate newspaper, taking it from the Manship family, which had published it ably for well over half a century.

What we learned in the Kennedy poll went well beyond the Edwards bounce. It contained clear evidence of Mr. Georges’ interest in reprising his run for governor as demonstrated in multiple explicit questions asking respondents their opinions on his suitability for the office of governor. Yes, Georges is thinking of getting in the race. This should be troubling to citizens of the state.

Certainly Georges had every right eight years ago to self fund his last-minute entry into that contest. It added a little zest to the race though few odds makers gave the fat cat with a size XXL ego much of a shot. Those predictions turned out to be well founded. He ran poorly though he personally spent millions.

But what was OK about a Georges’ candidacy then is far from OK today. Today he is the owner and publisher of The Advocate, the state’s largest, most widely circulated newspaper, and with it he inherited a stewardship to maintain the paper’s hard-earned credibility and reputation in covering state government and politics.

A Georges’ run for governor today conjures up unavoidable Donald Trump-like images. As a newly minted publisher of a well-regarded news organization he’s bought himself a level of cred undoubtedly designed, at least in part, to help offset his involvement in the greasy video poker business — the crack cocaine of gambling that feeds heavily on the poor. That may or may not have been a smart business move, but it certainly provided a stamp of legitimacy to his reputation.

But Mr. Georges needs to seriously reconsider adding election to the state’s highest office to his toy collection. Another Georges candidacy might be an ego blast for the businessman, but it would turn The Advocate into a credibility piñata. What story, editorial or column about the race in which he was a contender wouldn’t be subjected, fairly or not, to speculation about the role Mr. Georges played in its creation or bent? His opponents would have genuine claim to accusations of unfairness before the first coverage was published. And that scenario pales in comparison to the nightmare of a Gov. John Georges. How would the Baton Rouge-based Advocate even attempt to handle coverage of an administration run by the editors’ and reporters’ boss?

What is so disturbing about all this is the unavoidable conclusion that Mr. Georges, an intelligent man, has failed to comprehend the dangers implicit in a potential run for governor — or, that he does, but just doesn’t care. Someone needs to talk with him before he turns a self indulgent fantasy into a nightmare.

Steve May is co-publisher of The Independent.

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