Rep. John Fleming, R-La., is “very interested” in running for Senate in 2016 if Republican Sen. David Vitter is elected governor next year.
Louisiana only wrapped up the 2014 Senate race a few days ago, but soon state operatives may start thinking about another race. Vitter has already announced an exploratory committee to run for governor in 2015. If Vitter wins, Fleming said, he wants to succeed him in the Senate.
“I’m very interested in that possibility,” he told CQ Roll Call Tuesday during votes at the Capitol. “I think that we need, you know, Sen. Vitter is quite conservative, and I think we need to replace a good strong conservative with another conservative.”
The congressman contemplated challenging Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., who losther seat Saturday to Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-La.. But he said he deferred to Cassidy to “simplify the equation.”
“I’m very interested in that and certainly talking with folks back home. I’m getting a very positive response from people,” Fleming said of a possible 2016 run. He said he had spoken to Vitter as well.
“He and I are good friends,” Fleming said. “We have a great working relationship. I didn’t ask for any commitment, he didn’t offer any … He knows that I’m very engaged in this.”
It’s not a revelation that John Fleming wants to run for Vitter’s seat in 2016. He’s put out feelers along those lines for some time.
Fleming is going to have some competition, though. Whoever doesn’t win the governor’s race will be in a position to run, so a Jay Dardenne or Scott Angelle could well be in the mix. Elbert Guillory might decide to take a crack at the seat. Before he struggled to put away Forest Wright in his re-election bid, Eric Skrmetta had some buzz around him for a potential run. There are people who want Jeff Landry to take a stab at the race, though Landry himself has said he’s not comfortable with running for Attorney General next fall, winning and then turning around and running for the Senate. And there’s Rob Maness, who might see that it’s his turn to get the seat.
And it’s possible Mary Landrieu might run for Vitter’s seat. In fact, that’s probably the standard Republican activists and donors in Louisiana should evaluate potential Republican candidates on – can this person beat Mary Landrieu in a runoff? – before choosing someone to support.
What’s likely is there won’t be a serious Democrat Senate candidate, or if there is one it’ll be someone like Kip Holden or Cedric Glover, who has nothing better to do and wants to use that bid as a gambit for emerging as the leader of the black faction of that party, if not the party itself.
And then there is the issue of who Vitter, as governor, would appoint to fill his Senate seat should he win. He’s said he wouldn’t make that appointment based on a deal he would make, and that sounds nice. But the fact is Vitter can’t make that appointment without some sort of deal in place unless he was to put in a placeholder – like a Bob Livingston, or Richard Baker or Henson Moore, who wouldn’t have much longevity in any event and wouldn’t run to defend the seat. Anyone else, who would seek re-election, would be making a deal with Vitter.
He could go with Guillory, as an attempt to move the black vote from D to R in some small part, but he couldn’t do that with much of a lasting impact unless he was able to get Fleming and the other potential Republican contenders to stand down for 2016, and there would be a lot of grumbling if he made such a play.
Fleming’s goal at this point ought to be to make himself the “inevitable” candidate, in much the same vein Cassidy was able to do. There will be a strong sentiment in favor of a wide-open intra-Republican race, but if it’s obvious he’s going to win not only can he get the secondary candidates out of the race but he can present Vitter with more or less a fait accompli and say “why would you delay my ascension to the Senate? It’s obvious. Let’s get together and pick somebody we’ll endorse for my House seat.”
To do that, he’s probably going to need to spend as much time in New Orleans and Baton Rouge as he spends in Washington and Shreveport. Don’t be surprised to see Fleming camping out in the southern part of the state all next year.