Attorney General Jeff Landry made it official Wednesday with the announcement he intends to run for Louisiana governor next year. His entry into the field is not at all a surprise, as Landry has courted financial support for a gubernatorial campaign for quite some time, and he’s picked prominent moments to put himself at the forefront of contentious issues.
What everyone wants to know now is who will join Landry in the contest that’s almost certainly a Republican’s to win in 2023. A prominent Democrat hasn’t emerged, and anyone who does must contend with a considerable split within the party itself between its moderate and progressive ranks.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is considered a certain candidate for governor, and Treasurer John Schroder has put out feelers among his closest supporters about entering the race. Neither has indicated when they might make their bids official.
Nungesser might well be the closest thing the state GOP has to a unifying force. Louisiana’s Republican Party has suffered from its own fractures and mismanagement in recent years. Although Nungesser isn’t as conservative as some of its far right members would like, he has the ability to appease the party’s deep-pocketed donors. He also doesn’t come with the perceived baggage that Landry brings to the campaign.
The AG has come under scrutiny for being a paid board member for a prominent booster’s company, a mishandled sexual harassment complaint within his own office and his ownership of a business that imported workers with the help of a felon who broke immigration laws.
The other prominent potential entrants in the governor’s election are likely to stay silent on their intentions until after this fall’s congressional midterm elections. U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and U.S. Rep. Garret Graves have been at the periphery of the race, giving rather neutral answers when asked if they will put their names on the ballot.
Although he’s not up for reelection this year, Cassidy has some moderate appeal among Republicans. He refused to back former President Donald Trump’s “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was stolen from him. That would hurt him among the voters most likely to support Landry but could help him take votes away from Nungesser.
Unlike Cassidy, Graves voted with the rest of Louisiana’s Republican delegation on Jan. 6, 2021, to overturn the results of the presidential election. Yet he has not seen any repercussions from that vote and is expected to cruise to reelection next month.
Graves might not want to give up that secure seat in Congress. But in the governor’s race, he would appeal to Trump supporters leery of what’s in Landry’s closets while still being far right of Nungesser.
It might not be until December or January when we get a true sense of the field for governor in 2023. That would put us right around the corner from Washington Mardi Gras, where the candidates are likely to begin their campaigns – at least among fundraisers – in earnest
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