Louisiana’s Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry, who has become one of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ most prominent political enemies, has begun hammering the Democratic governor in the runoff election through a super PAC called Make Louisiana Great Again.
Landry, who was sitting on nearly $2 million in his campaign war chest as of the most recent reporting period, was somewhat active in the primary, stumping for Edwards’ Republican opponents at separate rallies with President Donald Trump and his son, Donald Trump Jr. His latest foray into the race indicates he is ramping up his efforts to oust Edwards.
The Super PAC, which has not yet disclosed its donors, is taking aim at a bipartisan criminal justice reform championed by Edwards and the GOP-led Legislature, launching a TV ad that features dramatized depictions of violent crimes and accuses Edwards of letting “thousands of criminals out of jail early.”
“This is an effort by our attorney general and people that have similar viewpoints on these issues,” said Brent Littlefield, Landry’s political strategist. “It’s an effort for him to make a point about the concerns of rushing criminal justice reform that led to thousands of criminals being released from jail really too quickly.”
Eddie Rispone, Edwards’ Republican opponent in the Nov. 16 runoff election who has Landry’s backing, ran similar ads in the primary, and they drew rebuke from several conservative organizations which supported the reforms and accused him of fear mongering.
Edwards and the Republican-led Legislature passed a 10-bill criminal justice reform package in 2017 that made it easier for non-violent offenders to win early release from prison. The bills helped Louisiana shed the title of the prison capital of the U.S., dropping to the second-highest incarceration rate in the country.
"Jeff Landry and Eddie Rispone claim to support the President, but they're attacking Gov. Edwards for bipartisan criminal justice reform mirrored by President Trump at the federal level,” Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Holl said in a statement. “Talk about phony. According to FBI crime data, Louisiana is safer after criminal justice reform, with murders decreasing faster here than across the country. That's why Gov. Edwards was endorsed for re-election by the Louisiana Sheriffs' Association. Louisiana won't be fooled by Rispone's phony attacks.”
Edwards' campaign wrote to TV stations running the ad Thursday asking for the ad to be pulled because it claims offenders "committed" murders, instead of being "accused" of the crimes. As of Thursday afternoon at least one station station had pulled the ad until the PAC changed the wording, and the Edwards campaign said two others were also pulling it.
Littlefield said the Edwards campaign was in "fear" over the ad's facts being disclosed to the public and accused the campaign of "parsing words."
The Make Louisiana Great Again PAC is not allowed to coordinate with Rispone’s campaign but can raise and spend unlimited sums attacking Edwards. Medium Buying, which tracks political spending, said on Twitter the Super PAC has placed at least $373,000 in ad spending through Nov. 9.
Landry has become one of Louisiana’s most prominent conservatives, spearheading a separate Super PAC alongside U.S. Sen. John Kennedy to try to move the Legislature to the right by ousting Democrats and Republicans not deemed conservative enough. He was considered a strong contender for the governor's office but opted not to run against Edwards.
The Make Louisiana Great Again PAC has the same name as a federal Super PAC started by Landry to blast congressional candidate Scott Angelle and support Clay Higgins, who won election to Landry’s home district in Acadiana in 2016.
Landry did not draw a serious challenger for his primary election, easily beating Plaquemine attorney Ike Jackson, a Democrat, with 66% of the vote. He was also not forced to spend much of his war chest, which is the largest among statewide officials aside from the governor.
Greg Mosing, a GOP donor and businessman from Broussard, is listed as the super PAC’s treasurer.
Smart on Crime Louisiana, a coalition of business leaders and conservative organizations, slammed the ad in a statement, saying it represents a "false narrative."