Our Views: Edwards bid starts race

We’ll give John Bel Edwards credit for candor, as the state representative from Amite declined on a live radio show to dance around the question of whether he plans to run for governor in 2015.

Edwards, head of the Democratic caucus in the House, said he does plan to run and thus is not coy about saying so.

We’re glad not to hear the usual elaborate wink-and-nod phrases about talking to people, listening to people, assessing the people’s will, and so on. The call of the people usually means that an ambitious man has decided to run, before the people voice anything.

However, there is also considerable political savvy in Edwards’ statement. While a successful lawyer, he cannot self-fund several million dollars in start-up costs. Raising money requires time, and showing his hand also means opening his campaign purse for contributions.

Another benefit is staking out the Democratic corner of the race. In an open primary in October 2015, anybody can run. But in declaring early, Edwards makes it clear that he’s in and that others should think about that before joining what may be loosely described as the “left” of the primary field.

A final advantage: time to let the voters know that he is not related to Edwin W. Edwards. It’s a fine line here, as John Bel Edwards is from a political family which backed the former governor in his day. Time allows Rep. Edwards to make sure that voters know he’s friendly with the former governor, but his own man.

If there are advantages in an early statement, there is also at least one disadvantage, of sorts, demonstrated when an aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal issued a prompt rebuttal of Edwards’ criticisms of Jindal’s record. With the Jindal administration awash in well-paid Republican political aides, several of them recent wash-ashores from Mitt Romney’s sunken cruise liner of a campaign, look for every Edwards statement to be dogged by criticism from taxpayer-supported flacks.

The governor cannot run for a third term in 2015, but he is ready to defend himself against criticism.

Again, the political disadvantage may also be an advantage: As Edwards is not well-known around the state, being the Democrat standing up against Jindal, and the target of the governor’s wrath, isn’t necessarily all bad — so long as Edwards can hold his own in that debate.