WASHINGTON — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said Tuesday he won't be running for governor of Louisiana in 2019, ruling himself out as a potential candidate to unseat Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Scalise was asked if there was "any chance you run for governor of Louisiana in 2019" at an event hosted by the Washington news organization POLITICO.
"No," Scalise answered bluntly, reiterating that response when asked to confirm there was "no way" he'd run.
Scalise, of Jefferson Parish and the No. 3 Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives, is widely seen as a potential successor to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, who's retiring at the end of the year.
But some politicos in Louisiana had speculated Scalise might mount a campaign for the Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge against Edwards, a Democrat, if Republicans fail to hold their House majority in this fall's midterm elections, something that would put the speaker's gavel in the hands of a Democrat and could upend the GOP's leadership ranks.
Lots of Louisianans are keeping an eye on how House Majority Whip Steve Scalise fares in Washington now that House Speaker Paul Ryan has annou…
A pair of other Louisiana Republicans on Capitol Hill — Sen. John Kennedy and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, of Alto — are contemplating 2019 campaigns for governor, though neither has definitively announced their intentions.
Abraham has made clear his interest in running for governor but hasn't gone as far as officially declaring his candidacy.
Kennedy, meanwhile, has demurred whenever asked about a potential run, doing little to tamp down speculation but refusing to tip his hand.
Kennedy spent 17 years as state treasurer and mounted two failed prior bids for Senate — both as a Democrat — before securing his current U.S. Senate seat in 2016. He's remained intimately involved in Louisiana politics and weighs in regularly on issues back in Baton Rouge, often trading barbs with Edwards.
Earlier this week, Kennedy declared on an Acadiana talk radio station that Edwards should resign in favor of Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a Republican and former president of Plaquemines Parish.
Bernie Pinsonat, a Baton Rouge political consultant and pollster, said Kennedy's political clout and fundraising ability in Louisiana makes it difficult for other Republicans — even, perhaps, Scalise — to dive into the governor's race until the senator announces his intentions.
"Until Kennedy makes up his mind and decides whether he's going to run or not, everything is on hold," Pinsonat said.
Other Republicans considered as possible challengers to Edwards include Attorney General Jeff Landry, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt and Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and one-time chief of staff to former Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Some Louisiana political insiders view Scalise as one of the most potent potential challengers to Edwards, who boasts strong approval ratings despite being a Democrat in a solidly red state. John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge political consultant, called a potential Scalise statewide campaign "pretty formidable."
Couvillon said he's not ruling out Scalise running for governor until after the dust settles on the midterm elections.
"Circumstances can always change, and the circumstances, of course, are the fall elections and where Scalise finds himself on the (House) leadership ladder come November or December," Couvillon said.
Pinsonat noted that Scalise has a chance to be speaker, and everyone is waiting to see what happens after November.
"If Republicans lost the House, would he come back?" said Pinsonat. "If he's saying now that he's definitely not coming back, that's pretty much what he's been telling people in Louisiana who've asked him about it."
The ambitious 52-year-old Scalise, a former Louisiana state legislator who's risen rapidly in Washington since arriving in 2008, nearly died a year ago when a gunman opened fire on GOP lawmakers during a practice for a charity baseball game.
Scalise was shot once through the hip with a high-powered rifle round. He said at Tuesday morning's event that his surgeons later told him they feared he wouldn't survive the hours after the shooting.
This year's charity Congressional Baseball Game will be played Thursday, the first anniversary of the attack, at the Washington Nationals' ballpark in D.C.
Scalise called his return to the U.S. House of Representatives in September after spending three months in the hospital one of the greatest and most memorable moments of his life, likening it to his wedding day and the births of his children.
"There were days when I wasn't sure I'd be able to do that," Scalise said.
The near-death experience, Scalise said, "put a lot more focus" on the things that are most important in his life — first among them his family.
"But then, No. 2, to be able to able to get back and do the job I love," Scalise said. "I really did love doing my job serving southeast Louisiana in Congress and serving as majority whip in leadership."
That day on the baseball field put a stronger focus on the things that matter: my family and serving the people of Southeast Louisiana. pic.twitter.com/rqLUEdBpLi— Rep. Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) June 12, 2018