WASHINGTON — U.S. House GOP Whip Steve Scalise has mostly stayed out of Louisiana's heated governor's race — both declining to run himself, despite urging from fellow Republicans, and abstaining from endorsing either of the major GOP contenders. But during an appearance in Illinois this week, Scalise took a dig at Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
Describing the Louisiana Legislature's flip from Democrat control to GOP, Scalise told a crowd of Illinois Republicans at the state fair in Springfield, "Today we have majorities in the House, in the Senate, and by the end of this year we will have every single statewide elected office as Republican. That’s how far we’ve come. And in just a short period of time, you can do that too.” (via Capitol News Illinois report on the appearance.)
Edwards is the only Democrat holding statewide office in Louisiana currently. He is seeking a second term in this fall's election but faces Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, as well as a handful of lesser-known candidates, on the Oct. 16 ballot. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two will go head-to-head in a runoff on Nov. 12.
Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House, was heavily urged to challenge Edwards and even received a direct ask from President Donald Trump, to whom Scalise has become a close ally. The qualifying period ended earlier this month without Scalise jumping into the race.
Scalise, R-Jefferson, narrowly survived a mass shooting in 2017 as Republicans practiced for a charity baseball game. His recovery was chronicled in the media, and his return to Louisiana after being treated in a Washington-area hospital for several months sparked televised celebrations at several athletic events.
Scalise, 53, has not endorsed Rispone, 70, or Abraham, 64, but he has spoken highly of both in recent months and the need for "change" in the state's leadership.
His appearance in Illinois served as a pep talk for Republicans there, who saw Democrats win the governor's race, supermajorities in the state House and Senate and two suburban Congressional districts previously held by Republicans in 2018.
“It was a tough cycle for us in a lot of states, but Illinois was one of the ones where it was the toughest,” Scalise said, according to the Capitol News Illinois report from the event. “And then you look at that and go, ‘Is it ever going to get better again, can we ever take our state back?’ You absolutely can take your state back, and you will take your state back by fighting the machine.”
“The ghost of Huey Long still walks the state Capitol in Baton Rouge in many places, but we finally took it back,” he told the crowd.