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Gannett - Kennedy: Washington is Mess; I Think I Can Do Better

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Location: Baton Rouge, LA

Gannett - Kennedy: Washington is Mess; I Think I Can Do Better

By Mike Hasten

Armed with a message of change and a new political party that supports him, state Treasurer John Kennedy has set his sights on a big target, incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

Kennedy said he's running because "I think Washington is a mess, it's broken. It's in the ditch. I think they have lost their way. It's probably the people and the culture, both. I can't think of a single problem they have solved for the American people. I think I can do better."

Kennedy switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party Aug. 27, 2007, and on Jan. 14, 2008, waltzed back into the treasurer's office unopposed. He had already started his Senate campaign.

"Party has never been the most important thing in my life," Kennedy said when he announced his change in parties. Although he endorsed John Kerry four years ago, he says the Democratic Party didn't suit him and now says the endorsement was "the biggest mistake of my life."

The Democrats have launched an attack using all the ammunition gathered by the Republican Party four years ago when he ran for the Senate as a Democrat against Sen. David Vitter and was heavily critical of the GOP. He called President Bush's tax cuts "nonsense on a stick" and said he was "not an Election-Day Democrat."

His campaign tries to work around those charges and responds with attacks on Landrieu.

"I disagree with Sen. Landrieu on the approach to the job. I think she sees being a United States senator as being a money collector" — bringing federal money to the state, Kennedy said. "I think it's a lot more than that.

"A United States senator is supposed to lead, they're supposed to have vision and they're supposed to solve problems and they're supposed to establish policy. Yeah, you're supposed to bring money back to your state when there's a need, but it's more than being a money collector."

Asked about the flood of negative ads, Kennedy said "You have to defend yourself. I went up with my first ad in the middle of August — a positive ad. Sen. Landrieu had been up sooner than me because she had more money. The day I went up with a positive ad, she went up with a negative ad."

Kennedy defends his ads proclaiming Landrieu "the most liberal senator in the history of Louisiana," although they do not mention Huey Long, whose Share the Wealth program was considered so liberal it was just short of communism.

"I don't think we've ever had a United States senator who voted to affirm Roe v Wade three times," he said. "I don't think we've ever had a United States senator who opposed the NRA in the United States Supreme Court over the Heller case in Washington, D.C."

Asked about the major difference between him and Landrieu, Kennedy said "I think that Sen. Landrieu truly believes that the only problems in America and in Louisiana are those problems that the federal government just isn't spending enough tax money on.

"And I don't believe that. I'm a good enough Methodist to believe that our maker gave us free will and with that free will goes responsibility, and there are some problems we have to solve for ourselves. Government can't solve them, and government shouldn't try to solve them."

Should he lose the race, Kennedy would return to the treasurer's office, since he just started his third term.

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