Baton Rouge GOP strays from state party, backs incumbent Buddy Caldwell for Attorney General _lowres

Advocate Photo by MARK BALLARD -- Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell spoke May 12 to the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish about the accomplishments of his office.

Taking a position at odds with the state party, the largest parish Republican organization on Tuesday will announce it is backing Buddy Caldwell’s re-election bid for state attorney general.

Addressing one of the reasons why the state GOP backed another candidate, Woody Jenkins, chairman of the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish, said of Caldwell, “He was a Democrat, that’s true (and one reason why the state GOP backed another candidate), but he’s also been conservative for years. We were impressed with his positions on substantive issues.”

Caldwell, who switched parties and became a Republican in 2011, is running for a third term as the head of the state’s Justice Department. The Republican Party of Louisiana endorsed one of his opponents, former Congressman Jeff Landry, in the all-GOP contest. Marty Maley, a lawyer who is a former prosecutor in the Baton Rouge area, also is running.

Jenkins pointed out that while still a Democrat, Caldwell filed a lawsuit in March 2010 to block the federal Affordable Care Act, known as Obamacare. Caldwell said at the time: “This is not a partisan issue. It’s about what is best for the state of Louisiana and its people. This act is an unprecedented intrusion on state sovereignty and individual freedom.”

Caldwell also joined Texas’ successful challenge to President Barack Obama’s executive order on amnesty for illegal immigrants and filed one of the few successful lawsuits arguing for the validity of the state constitutional bans on same-sex marriage.

“Marriage is between one man and one woman, period,” Caldwell answered on a questionnaire submitted to the parish party.

With 76,121 of the state’s 806,978 registered Republicans, East Baton Rouge Parish has the second-largest number of GOP voters — Jefferson Parish has 2,278 more registered Republicans, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.

But in the last two statewide elections, more Baton Rouge Republicans turned out to vote than any other single parish in the state.

Statewide party leaders threw their endorsement to Landry earlier this month, marking the first time in nearly a quarter-century the GOP endorsed a challenger over an incumbent statewide official.

Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere, of Metairie, told a news conference then that Landry was the better-qualified candidate and is the most conservative. He noted that Landry is a “lifelong Republican.”

Jenkins said the state party has a different process, one that has promoters of the candidates circulating petitions of support. In Baton Rouge, party leaders study questionnaires and hold interviews.

The vote is secret, and if no majority is determined, then no endorsement is made.

“This (endorsement) is not a criticism of Jeff (Landry),” Jenkins said. “It means the leaders carefully reviewed the candidates and concluded Buddy (Caldwell) was most qualified and reliably conservative.”

“I am humbled and delighted to receive the endorsement,” Caldwell said in a prepared statement. “I am very pleased to see that the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish took into account experience and qualifications in making its endorsement for attorney general.”

Landry noted Tuesday in a prepared statement that other Republican organizations, including the LSU College Republicans, and elected officials have backed his candidacy over Caldwell’s.

“Mr. Caldwell can tout all the backroom, deal-making politicos he wants, but we will continue to highlight the support of taxpayers and voters who believe in our shared Louisiana values,” Landry said. “We are confident the voters will choose my record of law enforcement and job creation over Mr. Caldwell’s record of cronyism and corruption.”

Candidates will need to officially sign up for the election from Sept. 8-10.

Early voting for the Oct. 24 primary election begins Oct. 10 and ends Oct. 17. If no candidate gets more than half the vote, a general election runoff is scheduled for Nov. 21.

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