Southern Republican Leadership Conference

Louisiana Federation of Republican Women president Gena Gore speaks during an Oct. 3, 2018 news conference to announce Kenner's Pontchartrain Center will be the site of the Southern Republican Leadership Conference on Jan. 18-19, 2019.

Louisiana will host one of the biggest GOP events leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

The 2019 Southern Republican Leadership Conference — dubbed the "Kickoff to 2020"  — will take place at the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner January 19-20.

The event, which was last held in Louisiana in 2014, typically draws thousands of attendees, including national GOP figures who go on to become presidential contenders. 

President Donald Trump already has announced his intentions to seek re-election, and the GOP plans to nominate him in the 2020 race.

It remains unclear whether Trump will attend the SRLC in Louisiana. He held two large-scale rallies in the state — one in Baton Rouge and one in New Orleans — in the run up to the 2016 election and has returned multiple times since defeating Democrat Hillary Clinton.

The Pontchartrain Center is equipped to handle any security needs required of a presidential visit, according to organizers, and the event will have a designated security team whether the president attends or not.

"We're about 99 percent certain that we'll have a Trump — We're just not sure which one," said Roger Villere, a former long-time chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party who is serving as president of the conference.

Louisiana Republicans also mentioned it to the president's son, Don Jr., when he attended an alligator hunt in the state last month.

"We're excited about that," Villere said. "It's going to be an outstanding conference."

Former Kenner Mayor Phil Capitano, now a political consultant, is the event's executive director.

SRLC tickets run from $99 to $499. For an upcharge, attendees get access to an opening night welcome dinner with Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, featuring fresh Louisiana seafood provided by the Louisiana Seafood Association, the event ticketing website notes.

More than 2,000 people attended the 2015 conference in Oklahoma City, which served as a kickoff to the GOP presidential primary battle.

Organizers have invited a slate of high-profile Republicans, many from the Trump orbit, to attend the SRLC in Kenner and anticipate confirmations to pick up after the mid-term elections. In addition to Trump, the invitee list includes U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, of Kentucky, and U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin; Energy Secretary and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry; several high-profile Republican senators from other states; and other national conservative darlings, such as Trump's former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski and Fox News Channel's Jeanine Pirro, both of whom have written books recently about the Trump administration.

Nungesser, who has announced plans to seek a second term as lieutenant governor next year, said he hopes he gets a chance to meet conservative North Carolina sisters and vocal Trump supporters Lynnette Hardaway and Rochelle Richardson, popularly known as "Diamond and Silk."

"They lend a little humor and fun in a time when we can all use it," Nungesser said.

Without a presidential primary battle, it's likely the conference, which takes place during the 2019 Louisiana statewide election cycle, will have a local flavor, as well.

Past Southern Republican Leadership Conferences have featured presidential straw polls. Villere said the 2019 event will include a straw poll on the Louisiana governor's race. Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, is running for re-election against not-yet-determined Republican challengers.

Gena Gore, president of the Louisiana Federation of Republican women, said the SRLC is shaping up to be a "must-be-there" event.

"2020 is just around the corner," she said.

Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn said he is excited about his city hosting an event for Republicans.

"This is the kickoff to the 2020 election," he said. "The city of Kenner is where things like this need to take place."

Eric Skrmetta, who served as co-chairman of Trump's 2016 campaign in Louisiana, said the event will shine a light on Louisiana and he hopes that it will draw young people to conservative politics.

"I think there's going to be a lot of people interested in this," he said.

Follow Elizabeth Crisp on Twitter, @elizabethcrisp.