Attorney General Jeff Landry's recent announcement that he will run for re-election next year put an end to speculation that Landry was gearing up to run for governor, but it also has set the stage for another possible hotly contested statewide race.
No Democrats have announced plans to challenge Landry, a Republican, in the attorney general's race next year.
Among some of the bigger names that have been floated in Democratic circles as possible options: House Speaker Pro Tempore Walt Leger III, of New Orleans; state Sen. Eric LaFleur, of Ville Platte; and state Sen. JP Morrell, of New Orleans.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is the only Democratic statewide officeholder in Louisiana, and Democrats have struggled in more recent statewide races.
In the 2016 U.S. Senate race, Democrat Foster Campbell, who has been on the Public Service Commission since 2003, received less than 40 percent of the vote. The following year, Democrat Derrick Edwards received about 44 percent of the vote in the race for state treasurer.
No Republicans have floated a serious same-party challenge to Landry, and a recent poll conducted by a different Republican official's campaign team found that Landry is viewed favorably by a strong majority of voters who identify as Republicans.
Landry, who took office in January 2016, is the president of the National Association of Attorneys General and on the executive committee of the Republican Attorneys General Association.
"We have a great story to tell that the voters of the state are going to appreciate and embrace," Landry said in a recent interview with The Advocate. "I believe that our record is going to be a great story for Louisianians."
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry has ended speculation that he might mount a run for governor next year by announcing Wednesday that he …
Landry's campaign fund had more than $1.2 million in the bank, as of the end of 2017 — the most recent report available. The next disclosure is due at the start of the year.
Separately, Landry heads the Louisiana Conservative Majority PAC, with its mission to elect conservative Republicans to the state Legislature, where Edwards also has faced resistance. The political action committee had nearly $700,000 cash on hand at the start of November — its most recent filing.
Landry previously spent two years in the U.S. House before he lost a re-election bid in a redrawn district after the state lost one of its congressional seats. He describes his short stint in the House as having to beg for scraps — one of 435 voting members in a chamber were many have built up decades of seniority and clout.
"When you really look at it, that time in the House of Representatives versus my time as attorney general, this certainly is a position where you can actually effect change," Landry said.
Landry said he's found comrades among other Republican attorneys general.
"We've seen a lot of successes that Republican AGs have had when we band together," Landry said.
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But he's also been a frequent, and outspoken, foe of Edwards. Landry spent months toying with the idea of challenging Edwards in the governor's race and has regularly challenged the governor's agenda. Landry, a staunch conservative, has sued to stop the governor's executive order protecting LGBT people from discrimination in state government; signed onto an anti-Obamacare lawsuit that threatens Edwards' signature achievement of expanding Medicaid; challenged Edwards' board appointments; and questioned the governor's position on the death penalty.
Their frequent sparring has prompted sharply written letters and frequently bubbled up in media coverage.
"I was surprised to hear about a letter from (Landry) through media reports yesterday, but given the many inaccurate comments he made, I felt compelled to respond," Edwards wrote on Twitter over the summer.
Landry rejects the notion that he has intentionally been politically antagonistic against the Democratic governor.
"That has never been the case," he said. "It's always been about putting the people of Louisiana first, rather than politics."
Landry had previously said he would not run for governor only if he felt that Republicans had a candidate well-suited to defeat Edwards. Nonetheless, he didn't wait for U.S. Sen. John Kennedy to make his much-anticipated announcement about whether he will run. Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone is the only Republican to formally enter the race to date.
"We've got one who has a lot of resources to pledge, and we have a potential another that I anticipate getting in soon," Landry said. "I'm really comfortable with that."
Giving a peek into his re-election strategy, Landry said crime will be one of the hot-button topics in the race.
"We're going to make crime a major issue," he said. "We're seeing violent crime affect people throughout the state."
His office has focused heavily on Medicaid provider fraud cases and targeting online child predators.
"We've also done so much in the fight to try to stem the opioid epidemic," Landry said.
"I'm most proud of our team," Landry said of his track record to date.