All of Louisiana’s statewide officeholders, including Gov. Bobby Jindal, signed up to run for re-election Tuesday on the first day of qualifying for the fall primary.
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, Treasurer John Kennedy, Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon and Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain paid the necessary fees to add their names to the Oct. 22 ballot.
All are Republicans. Runoffs, if needed, will be Nov. 19.
Candidate qualifying runs from Tuesday to Thursday for offices ranging from governor to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
Legislative seats also are up for grabs, with two-thirds of incumbents seeking re-election so far.
New Orleans area businessman John Georges, who finished a distant third to Jindal in 2007, said Tuesday he is weighing a second attempt at becoming governor. “I am giving this race serious consideration,” said Georges, who is a registered Democrat.
Besides incumbents, the biggest names to sign up Tuesday were House Speaker Jim Tucker and Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. Tucker, R-Terrytown, hopes to oust Schedler as secretary of state. Nungesser, a Republican who dominated the airwaves during the oil leak crisis, wants to become the state’s lieutenant governor.
Seats on BESE, which oversees public education policies in Louisiana, also generated interest. Incumbent Chas Roemer of Baton Rouge will face at least two challengers. East Baton Rouge Parish School System general counsel Domoine Rutledge and Plaucheville resident Jim Guillory are among those vying to succeed District 8 BESE member Linda Johnson, who is not seeking re-election.
“I have no idea why I have two opponents,” said Roemer, a Republican. “I like debate. I’m not scared of it.”
Jindal drew two official opponents hours before he stepped through the door.
Bob Lang, of Natchitoches, and Ron Ceasar, of Opelousas, both are running for governor without a party affiliation.
Lang, who unsuccessfully ran against U.S. Sen. David Vitter last year, said he voted for Jindal in 2007 but now is unhappy with the governor.
“I just consider him a false alarm,” Lang said.
Ceasar, who led a failed effort to recall Jindal, said he wants to create more jobs, reform education and make health care a greater priority.
A third opponent, Leonard “Lenny” Bollingham, of Baton Rouge, signed up late Tuesday. He said he is running for governor, also without party affiliation, because he has a bunch of different ideas for small changes.
“We’ll run against anyone who decides to run,” Jindal said after paying $1,125 to seek a second term. “I can’t control who qualifies between now and Thursday.”
Georges, who is believed to be a multimillionaire, largely self-financed unsuccessful runs for governor and for New Orleans mayor. He said Tuesday he is mulling another run for governor.
Market Research Insight, of Gulf Breeze, Fla., questioned 600 “likely” voters across Louisiana between Aug. 29 and Sept. 1 on Georges’ behalf.
The poll first found that 51 percent would vote for Jindal, while 31 percent would vote for Georges. Nearly 20 percent were undecided.
The firm then described Georges as a “50-year-old Jefferson Parish businessman who built a billion dollar grocery business called Imperial Trading and created over thousands of jobs … He donated millions of dollars to charities including schools, universities and churches. He pledges to not take a salary until the unemployment rate is cut in half and people are back to work.”
After giving respondents the characterization, the firm found that 39 percent of those polled would vote for Jindal and 40 percent would vote for Georges.
Twenty six percent of the respondents were African American, 72 percent were “ethnic majority” and 1 percent were Hispanic.
Jindal’s campaign aide, Timmy Teepell, said Georges’ entrance would change the dynamics of a so far lackluster gubernatorial race.
“The TV stations, the radio stations and the newspapers will make a lot more money,” Teepell said.
Schedler was the first person to qualify Tuesday, followed by Caldwell, who switched from Democrat to Republican in February.
Dardenne is running for a four-year term as lieutenant governor after winning an election last year for the vacancy created when Mitch Landrieu became mayor of New Orleans.
With Nungesser entering the race, the election will pit a Republican against a Republican.
Nungesser backed Dardenne when he ran for the unexpired term last year.
Nine months later, Nungesser said he is the better Republican.
“I’m the better person in this race for the Republican Party,” Nungesser said. “You won’t outwork me.”
Dardenne said multiple Republicans in the race reflects the party’s growth. Republicans now hold the majorities in the Louisiana House and the state Senate.
The secretary of state’s race also features two Republicans running against each other.
Schedler wants to hold onto the job he inherited when Dardenne became secretary of state. Tucker hopes to push him out of the role of overseeing elections and state museums.
Tucker said he already is running radio ads. “People know who I am as a conservative,” he said.
Schedler accused Tucker of trying to use the office as a stepping stone. “(This) is the only job I want,” he said.
Strain, Kennedy and Donelon said they have the resources to run a campaign should their re-election bids draw opponents.
For Kennedy, this would be his third run for treasurer without an opponent.
“None of us can predict the future. I am prepared for my campaign,” he said.