Rolfe McCollister explained why last month in the Greater Baton Rouge Business Report when he wrote that Landry has sent “various warnings and threats he’s sending to potential opposing candidates and their supporters, boasting ‘I will be governor and I won’t forget.’” McCollister continued, “He’s also tossing out threats such as ‘you won’t work in this state.’ High-ranking elected officials say Landry has made subtle threats to them as well.” McCollister went on:
Do you want our state run by an individual who currently is responsible for upholding the laws of this state but seems to care little about ethics regulations—using campaign funds to help buy himself a pickup truck and later failing to disclose more than $4,000 in travel reimbursement. Is our future brighter in a political world where the governor uses fishy arrangements to enrich himself and close allies? Do you want a leader of the state using his power to intimidate or punish those who disagree with him or his friends—and do you believe that will lead to brighter economic days for our state? I don’t.
Are you good with someone—again, who is supposed to be concerned with the law—taking a rather dismissive view toward sexual harassment allegations in his own office, choosing to attack those who raised the complaints while defending the alleged perpetrator, who happens to be a buddy?
The anti-Landry group, however large it is, has so far been unimpressed by the other three notable Republicans―Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson―and they’ve spent quite some time looking for an alternative. Waguespack was far from their first choice, though, as O'Donoghue writes they unsuccessfully tried to get Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, and Rep. Garret Graves to run and block Landry.
But Waguespack ultimately was the one who stepped up, and just like all of those other would-be alternatives to Landry, he’s anything but a moderate. Among other things, Waguespack has successfully opposed Edwards’ attempt to raise the state’s minimum wage from the $7.25 an hour it’s been since 2008, and he’s been an ardent ally of the oil and gas industry. His style, however, is very different from Landry’s, as NOLA.com's Tyler Bridges writes Waguespack is "well-liked personally by Republicans and Democrats."
The first-time candidate, who spent the last decade leading Louisiana's chapter of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, now has to prove he's the contender Landry's intraparty enemies can have the courage to support, though that support still may not need to be public: LaPolitics’ Jeremy Alford reports that these donors are considering contributing to a pro-Waguespack PAC so they can avoid revealing their identities.
Perhaps Waguespack’s biggest liability comes from his time as chief of staff to former Gov. Bobby Jindal, a one-time Republican rising star who left office in 2016 with disastrous approval numbers after presiding over years of massive budget cuts. The new candidate said Thursday he anticipates opponents will tie him to his old boss, arguing, “The entrenched status quo may try to smear me and distract voters from the true issues that face our families. They will want to focus on Louisiana’s past but I will be laser-focused on Louisiana’s future.”
More recently, Waguespack responded to the Jan. 6 attack by writing two days later that he was upset with “images of our Nation’s Capitol being treated like a frat house on a drunken weekend came across the airwaves.” Waguespack also used that piece to say he accepted Joe Biden’s win and said of Trump, “Our current President, rather than running on a strong economic record of job creation, has relied more on incendiary rhetoric to provoke furor and rage against those who disagree with his positions.” Landry, in contrast, was one of the Republican attorneys general who unsuccessfully sued to overturn Biden’s victory, and his campaign has publicly predicted he’s about to get Trump’s endorsement.
The contest to succeed Edwards includes two other notable contenders: former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, a Democrat who has the governor’s endorsement, and independent Hunter Lundy, a self-funding attorney who is a member of the governing board of the Christian Nationalist group National Association of Christian Lawmakers. The field may expand again as Republican state House Speaker Clay Schexnayder said last week he’d consider running if Graves didn’t, though it remains to be seen how Waguespack’s candidacy will impact his deliberations.
Louisiana’s candidate filing deadline isn’t until Aug. 10, and politicians sometimes only wait until the last moment to decide what they’ll do―even if they’re outside the country when qualifying ends. Bridges and Alford wrote in their book Long Shot that while wealthy Democrat John Georges was in France the day of the 2015 deadline, he had filled out candidate paperwork to run before he left.
Georges gave the qualifying papers to a close ally named Jack Capella and instructed him to wait in his car outside the secretary of state's office in case a candidate unexpectedly entered or left the race. Georges called Capella just before qualifying closed and told him since there were no developments, he wouldn't run. But while Georges’ last-second transcontinental flirtations remind us that anything is possible before the deadline, it’s still rare for major contenders to actually launch a statewide campaign when they’d have so little time to organize.
All the candidates, whoever they may be, will compete in the Oct. 14 all-party primary. In the likely event that no one secures a majority, a runoff would take place on Nov. 18 between the top-two vote-getters, regardless of party.
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