2 of La.'s biggest unions back Edwards (not that one) for governor

by Patrick Flanagan

Rep. John Bel Edwards (D-Amite)

It’s been a good week for state Rep. John Bel Edwards and his bid as the lone Democrat running for Bobby Jindal’s job as Louisiana's next governor.

Regardless of his campaign platform, Edwards — of no relation to the infamous Louisiana Dem of the same last name — being a Democrat running for any political office in blood red Louisiana is an automatic guarantee he’ll be facing a tough road ahead in his pursuit for the governor’s mansion. Fall’s election is a long ways off, and with this being one of Louisiana’s most high-profile races of the year and all, the possibilities are endless on what can happen between now and then. And while it'll sadly take something close to a miracle before we see another Democratic governor in this state, Edwards did receive some good news this week in the form of endorsements from the state’s biggest labor and teacher unions.

The endorsements came Tuesday, first from the AFL-CIO.

From a report Wednesday by The Advocate’s New Orleans bureau:

AFL-CIO, which typically endorses Democratic candidates, didn’t hesitate over the endorsement Tuesday and quickly voted to back Edwards’ campaign, even though candidates legally have several months to decide to run.

“To us, the record is clear,” said Louisiana AFL-CIO President Louis Reine. “The choice is clear for the people of the state of Louisiana.”

Shortly after the AFL-CIO went public with its endorsement, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers (or LFT for short) followed suit with an endorsement of its own, saying it too would be backing Edwards for governor. (Not to be mistaken for the Louisiana Association of Educators — Louisiana’s other teacher union — the LFT is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO, and is equipped with its own executive board and the ability to make it’s own independent candidate endorsements, hence the reasoning for separate endorsements from connected organizations.)

Quoting from LFT’s press release sent out Tuesday afternoon:

Citing his longstanding support for public education, his family values and his inspiring life story, the Louisiana Federation of Teachers today announced that it is supporting State Rep. John Bel Edwards for governor.

LFT President Steve Monaghan said the union’s executive board was polled immediately after Rep. Edwards won the endorsement of the Louisiana AFL-CIO on Tuesday. The Federation’s governing body enthusiastically embraced his candidacy, Monaghan said.

“John Bel Edwards has dedicated his adult life to the service of his country and his state,” said Monaghan. “He is the right man at the right time to lead Louisiana to a brighter future for us and for our children.”

Monaghan said that Rep Edwards earned the Federation’s full support based upon his stellar record of fighting for public education and working families during his seven years of legislative service.

“On issue after issue, John Bel Edwards stood up for children, teachers and our public schools,” Monaghan said. “Representative Edwards has the vision, energy, ability and determination it takes to move Louisiana forward.”

From our state’s fiscal crisis to the decline of higher education to the calamitous rollout of Common Core standards, Monaghan said, Edwards has been a voice of reason standing against those who have led the state to the brink of disaster.

“When Gov. Jindal and his allies demonized our teachers and attacked public education with the ill-conceived, unconstitutional schemes of 2012, Rep. Edwards was one of the heroes who actually read the legislation, did his own homework, and stood tall in defense of our constitution, our kids, teachers, and communities,” Monaghan said. “Representative Edwards never flinched. He stood his ground, and he has been proven right.”

Monaghan said that Rep. Edwards’ life story should make him appealing to Louisianans.

“He’s a graduate of West Point and a veteran Army Ranger battalion commander,” Monaghan said. “A loyal family man married to his high school sweetheart, who is a Tangipahoa Parish school teacher. Rep. Edwards is an avid sportsman and a pillar of his church. He’s the real deal, and he will make a great governor.”

From left: Vitter, Dardenne, Edwards and Angelle

While this type of support is undoubtedly a positive for the Edwards campaign, he’ll need more of it heading into the fall in what’s shaping up to be a crowded race with three high-profile Republicans already having thrown their names into the ring, including U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and Public Service Commissioner (and alleged Jindal devotee) Scott Angelle. And the field of candidates may get even more crowded according to a report this week from Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics on a clandestine effort to find another Democratic candidate with a better known last name; like a Landrieu, a Holden, Gallot or perhaps even a Cravins. (Read more from Alford on these recent underground Democratic recruiting attempts here.)

And for a more in-depth look at who Edwards is, check out our April 2013 profile "Saved by the Bel?" — an IND exclusive also written by Jeremy Alford — here.