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Analysis: Democrat John Bel Edwards' victory has ripple effects across Louisiana politics


BATON ROUGE, Louisiana — While analysts were still sifting through the results of the Louisiana governor's race, politicians already were moving beyond how it happened that a Democrat won the job and looking ahead to the ramifications of voters' decision.

Democratic state Rep. ' victory and Republican U.S. Sen. 's defeat will have a sort of political domino effect that spills out across Louisiana politics.

Edwards' 12-percentage point win over Vitter was a rebuke to the senator after a race that became more about Vitter's personal integrity than any policy debates. With the embarrassing loss, Vitter quickly announced he wouldn't run for re-election to a third term next year, creating a rare open Senate seat.

Several politicians had been eyeing the seat for months — though initially it was because conventional wisdom once had Vitter likely coasting to an easy win for governor. Republicans have been readying campaign plans for quite a while.

First up, U.S. Rep. , a Republican from Lafayette, let fewer than two days lapse after Vitter's re-election decision before releasing a pre-announcement of his own Senate race plans. In the statement, Boustany made it clear he intends to run for Vitter's seat, saying an official Senate candidacy declaration would come soon.

"I look forward to outlining my vision for Louisiana and how I intend to help lead our state to the bright future I know lies before us," Boustany said.

Within hours of Boustany's statement, Republican U.S. Rep. of Minden followed up with one of his own, saying he, too, will make his Senate race announcement "in the near future."

"At that time I will share my goals for Louisiana and our nation, and why I believe the voters are eager to see real, conservative solutions in our nation's capital," Fleming said.

Other Republicans considering the Senate race include Treasurer ; Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, the third-place finisher in the governor's race; and Rob Maness, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate last year. New Orleans Mayor , a Democrat, also hasn't closed the door on a run for the position.

If Boustany and Fleming both stick it out in the Senate race, that would create openings for their congressional district seats, and already possible contenders are starting to discuss their campaign options.

Angelle has been mentioned as a strong potential candidate for the 3rd Congressional District job held by Boustany, if he decides he'd prefer an easier competition than the Senate race is shaping up to be.

With this year's elections barely done, the 2016 races are getting under way. Meanwhile, in Baton Rouge, maneuvering for state legislative leadership jobs has been going on behind the scenes for months.

Now that Louisiana's next governor has been chosen, lawmakers are trying to leverage the outcome to their advantage.

Some legislators are hoping their alliance with Edwards can help them gain support from their colleagues. Others are seeking to use the party split — Edwards is a Democrat, while Republicans hold majorities in both the state House and Senate — to drive more legislative independence in leadership selections.

Governors traditionally have held significant sway over who becomes Senate president and House speaker, with many governors going so far as to meddle in the selection of legislative committee chairmen and vice chairmen as well.

Edwards campaigned as a moderate with a bipartisan approach to governing. As a state lawmaker, he's also talked of the need for more legislative independence. Lawmakers are waiting for more signals on just how much he tries to interfere in their affairs as governor, and Edwards hedged a bit when questioned on the subject.

"I don't intend to tell the Legislature exactly who they need to put in what positions," Edwards said the day after his election win.

"But there will be communications because we have an agenda," he said. "I was elected with 56 percent of the vote saying I was going to do certain things, and I'm going to work to make sure that we get those initiatives through the Legislature."

EDITOR'S NOTE: Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press. Follow her at .

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