Louisiana state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder unexpectedly revealed this week that he was considering campaigning in this October’s all-party primary for governor, saying that a “lot depends” whether or not his fellow Republican, Rep. Garret Graves, runs to succeed termed-out Democrat John Bel Edwards. We also learned Tuesday that Hillar Moore, a Democrat who serves as district attorney for East Baton Rouge Parish, would sit the race out.
Schexnayder began the year preparing to run to replace GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser ahead of his own long-expected bid for the top job, but those plans were thrown into disarray in early January when Nungesser announced he’d seek re-election instead. Nungesser’s decision not only meant that Schexnayder wouldn’t be campaigning for the office tasked with issuing the annual crawfish pardon (yep, that’s a thing), it also left the term-limited speaker searching for a new post to seek.
LA Politics’ Jeremy Alford reported in January that Schexnayder was being encouraged to run for Ascension Parish president, but he told Alford Monday that he was now thinking about a campaign for governor and would “make a decision soon.” Schexnayder used a separate interview with Lafayette Daily Advertiser reporter Greg Hilburn to say he was waiting to see what Graves did, though no one knows when the congressman will make up his mind. Graves did say last week that his own decision would come "sometime soon,” though he also indicated he believed he could wait months longer and still win.
The Republican field currently consists of Attorney General Jeff Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson. The far-right Landry has long looked like the frontrunner, and he’s been trying in recent weeks to appease his many intra-party enemies.
While Nungesser famously said last year that “Jeff is not a good person,” he had a different take after the two would-be rivals met in mid-February. “I was encouraged he was willing to listen to everything I had to say,” the lieutenant governor told the media, adding, “It was a part of Jeff I never saw or didn’t know about before.” Alford also said Monday that Landry and Graves themselves had what the congressman’s team described as a “positive” gathering.
No notable Democrats have entered the race yet, but that’s likely to change soon. Shawn Wilson, who would be the first African American elected statewide since Reconstruction, will step down as state transportation secretary on March 4, and NOLA.com’s Tyler Bridges says his announcement could also come “as soon as next week.” Bridges adds that, with Moore out of the running, “No other major Democratic candidates appear likely to run” in this conservative state ahead of the August filing deadline.
The field also includes attorney Hunter Lundy, an independent who has self-funded $1.4 million so far. Lundy, who is a member of the governing board of the Christian Nationalist group National Association of Christian Lawmakers, has attracted relatively little attention during the campaign, though he was mentioned in a recent Rolling Stone piece about the NACL. His appearance was brief, though: Writer Tim Dickinson said, “Lundy, in a legitimate excuse for a man from Southern Louisiana, was unavailable to be interviewed due to Mardi Gras.”
P.S. So what exactly is the annual crawfish pardon? Hilburn reported from the 7th annual event in Breaux Bridge, a small community near Lafayette that the state legislature proclaimed as “the Crawfish Capital of the World” in 1959. Nungesser this year bestowed the pardon onto Firmin, a crawfish Hilburn says is named for the Acadian settler Firmin Breaux, who “built the first footbridge across Bayou Teche in 1799” decades after the British expelled him and other members of his community from Nova Scotia.
“At least this little guy will be saved from ending up on someone's plate during the Crawfish Festival in May or on a restaurant tray or in a backyard boil,” Nungesser said of Firmin, who will instead live in the local Lake Fausse Point State Park.