Sept. 21, 2016 12:13 AM

Did state Treasurer John Kennedy’s smug handling of “Jeff Davis 8-gate” hurt him with voters? Consistently and far and away the front runner in the race to replace U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the Senate, Kennedy has tumbled into a statistical dead heat with fellow candidate U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, the unfortunate target of the prostitution accusation leveled in a recently published book about the Jeff Davis 8 — eight women, most of them known prostitutes, found murdered in Jefferson Davis Parish a few years ago.

The newest poll by Southern Media Opinion Research shows Kennedy still leading with 16.9 percent, but Boustany is close behind at 15.2. Both are Republicans. Democrat Caroline Fayard shows up third in the poll with 11.4 percent support. Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell rounds out the top four with 9.2 percent.

Kennedy’s tumble in the SMOR poll is striking. In late May the polling company found him way ahead with 32 percent support compared to second-place Boustany’s 10 percent. Now, the pair is statistically tied. (The poll sampled 500 likely voters and has a margin of error of 4.4 percent, which, it’s worth noting, means Boustany and Fayard are also “statistically tied.”)

The book, Murder In The Bayou, cites anonymous sources in accusing Boustany of having patronized at least one of the murdered prostitutes in Jefferson Davis Parish. The Boustany campaign has vigorously denied the charge and accused Kennedy of being behind the book’s accusations, which Kennedy denied in a press release that went out of its way to mention the prostitution accusations and smugly note that Kennedy and his family were praying for the Boustanys.