After criticizing the Jindal administration’s approach to balancing the state’s budget, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said emphatically Monday that he will not run for governor in 2015.
“We have made tremendous progress that was admirable of the city, but we have a very long way to go, and because of that I don’t intend to be a candidate for governor in this fall’s election,” Landrieu told the Press Club of Baton Rouge in his most direct statement to date about the race.
Landrieu, 54, said he had given the governor’s race careful consideration, particularly after a series of polls put him at the top of lists of possible candidates, a couple of which named him as one of the few Democrats who could win in the Republican-leaning state.
“I’d be fibbing to you if I said it didn’t make me feel good that when my name is put in polls, when my name is mentioned, that I’m at the top of that list,” he said.
His sister, Mary, lost her three-term seat in the U.S. Senate last year when she was handily beaten by Republican Bill Cassidy. All the officials elected statewide are Republicans, and the GOP holds majorities in both the Louisiana House and state Senate.
When running for re-election in 2014, Landrieu was asked whether he would commit to serving another complete, four-year term as mayor. He answered yes.
But his name kept floating up as a possible candidate — most recently on Feb. 21, when Montana Gov. Steve Bullock told the National Journal that the New Orleans mayor and former lieutenant governor would be a strong candidate.
Landrieu’s lukewarm denials only seemed to fuel further speculation. Even as the state Democratic Party’s hierarchy and organized labor leaders endorsed state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, Landrieu never flatly said he was not interested in the state’s highest office, until Monday.
“I intend to use my position as mayor of the city of New Orleans to make sure those individuals who are going to lead us going forward,” Landrieu said, “hear loudly and clearly from the people in this state about the issues.”
The major Republicans running for governor include Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, of Baton Rouge; and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, of Metairie.
Landrieu has known all four of the major candidates for governor a long time. “They all have their strengths; they all have their weaknesses,” he said, adding that he hasn’t decided yet whom to back.
The election to decide Louisiana’s next governor will be Oct. 24, with a Nov. 21 runoff, if needed. Candidates have until Sept. 10 to file for the race, though those who have publicly declared their intentions have already been raising millions for their campaigns.
“The state is at a critical point. If the state continues to go in the direction it’s going in, the way it’s going in, we will continue to get weaker. We will continue to get slower and we will continue to be less competitive into the future,” Landrieu said.
Landrieu recently has given a number of stirring speeches that directly criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal and led many to believe that he would be the first New Orleans mayor to make a serious attempt for the Governor’s Mansion since deLesseps S. “Chep” Morrison in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“The truth is, by and large, all that has been proposed for this session seem to be short-term solutions that spend money today that should be saved until tomorrow: Band-Aids on an infection that actually needs pretty radical surgery,” Landrieu said.
Repealing the inventory tax without considering how local governments will be funded will translate to garbage not getting picked up, law enforcement gaps and 2,700 teachers losing their jobs. “Property owners on the local level will see huge increases in property taxes,” Landrieu said.
He suggested pulling back on exemptions given to oil and natural gas producers that use horizontal drilling and bringing the cigarette tax to the national average. The two together would equal the amount that would be raised by repealing the inventory tax, Landrieu said. He also recommended the governor expand the rolls of Medicaid to accept the 300,000 or so residents who make too much for the government insurance for the poor, but too little to buy adequate insurance on their own.
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