There’s Something Interesting In LABI’s Statewide Endorsements Released Wednesday

The identities of the candidates for statewide offices endorsed by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry Wednesday certainly weren’t very surprising. LABI – or more specifically the four political action committees funded by its members in the north, south, east and west regions of the state – backed all the Republican incumbents in statewide offices and split an endorsement of the two Republican challengers to John Bel Edwards for governor.

The press release announcing the endorsements…

LABI’S PACS ANNOUNCE ENDORSEMENT OF CANDIDATES IN STATEWIDE RACES

BATON ROUGE, LA – (August 21, 2019) Today the four regional political action committees of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) announced endorsements of candidates in races for statewide elected seats. After inviting all major candidates for each office and interviewing those who chose to participate, the boards of NorthPAC, EastPAC, WestPAC and SouthPAC voted unanimously to endorse the following candidates running for election on October 12, 2019:

Governor:

  • U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-Alto)
  • Eddie Rispone (R-Baton Rouge)

Lieutenant Governor:

  • Billy Nungesser (R-Belle Chasse)

Secretary of State:

  • Kyle Ardoin (R-Baton Rouge)

Attorney General:

  • Jeff Landry (R-Broussard)

Treasurer:

  • John Schroder (R-Covington)

Commissioner of Agriculture:

  • Mike Strain (R-Covington)

Commissioner of Insurance:

  • Jim Donelon (R-Metairie)

“This year has the makings of a potentially historic election cycle, which is why the business leaders that make up our four regional PACs are aligned more than ever before,” said Bo Staples, LABI PAC director. “These candidates and incumbents have articulated a clear vision for our state’s future, and it leaves us optimistic that Louisiana is on the verge of something special. This comes after a concerted effort on our part earlier this year to recruit and train solid, business-minded leaders for the Legislature and other offices, knowing the high stakes that come with such a high number of open seats. Legislators elected this cycle will, if historical trends continue, serve the full three terms, meaning they’ll be in office for two rounds of redistricting, multiple administrations and truly serve as a foundation for improving our state for decades to come. We’re proud to endorse these statewide candidates, along with the previously announced endorsements for Louisiana Supreme Court, BESE and close to 60 legislative candidates, and look forward to announcing additional endorsements in the coming weeks.”

Endorsed candidates said the following:

U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham:
“Having the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s endorsement is incredibly important and exciting. It’s time to start putting Louisiana families first. That begins with bringing in good, high paying jobs and supporting the businesses that are already here.”

Eddie Rispone:
“I am honored to have the endorsement of LABI. As a businessman and entrepreneur, I have a special appreciation for the job creators of our great state. Education and job creation are our paths to prosperity and together we can make Louisiana the best state in the south for jobs and opportunities for our next generations.”

Lieutenant Governor Billy Nungesser:
“I am proud to have earned the endorsement of Louisiana’s largest business organization, LABI. I appreciate LABI recognizing my administration’s hard work to restructure, negotiate, and save our state millions of dollars while still welcoming more visitors to Louisiana than ever before in state history. It is a great honor to have one of our state’s most-respected business alliances put its seal of approval on my work as Lt. Governor.”

Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin:
“Election security and election integrity are foundations of democracy, and I am proud to lead the Secretary of State’s office in this critical time. I am honored to earn the endorsement of LABI, and I will stay vigilant in the fight for free, fair and accurate elections.”

Attorney General Jeff Landry:
“I appreciate the endorsement of the job creators in the LABI. Creating jobs, protecting jobs, and growing our economy must be a priority for all Louisiana’s leaders. As Attorney General, and as a former successful small businessman, I have fought to protect our economy. I appreciate LABI’s recognition of my work and of the hard work LABI members do each and every day to grow jobs and improve our economy.”

Treasurer John Schroder:
“I am honored that LABI has endorsed me in my reelection bid for State Treasurer. As your treasurer, I have been committed to making sure that the fiscal situation of our state gets back on track and having the endorsement of such a well-respected group within the business environment is an incredible vote of confidence. I would like to personally thank the good people at LABI for their endorsement! Our work is not finished yet!”

Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain:
“I am very proud and honored to receive the endorsement of all four LABI-affiliated PACs in my bid for re-election.  In order to move this state forward we must continue to work together and grow our economy.  Agriculture, Aquaculture, and Forestry is big business in this state, and we need all of our partners to continue to thrive.”

Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon:
“It’s a great honor to receive the endorsement from LABI’s regional PACs. LABI has a strong record of supporting the top candidates who are committed to Louisiana’s business environment and I am humbled to be included in that group. There are many challenges that our state faces and the insurance environment is no different; but with hard work, we can continue the work of lowering rates and increasing competition which I have made a cornerstone of my department.  I would like to thank LABI for their support and endorsement!”

In July, LABI’s regional PACs began announcing a series of endorsements in races for the Louisiana Legislature, Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and Louisiana Supreme Court, and as the election season progresses, each PAC Board will likely release additional endorsements for legislative seats as well as BESE. Follow more LABI election news at  www.facebook.com/politiceaux.

NorthPAC, SouthPAC, EastPAC and WestPAC are non-partisan political action committees led by businessmen and businesswomen working to recruit and support candidates who support the free enterprise market with as little government interference as possible.

What’s special about this? A couple of things.

First, this is the earliest LABI’s PACs have ever endorsed in statewide races. In fact, LABI hadn’t even made a practice of endorsing for governor, as typically the four PACs had mostly stuck to legislative races, until four years ago when the members voted to back David Vitter over John Bel Edwards. The PAC members are so disgusted with Edwards’ economic record that they voted to make a point of endorsing Anybody But Edwards even before the primary election.

That’s a new thing. It’s a statement, and an unmistakable one.

LABI’s PACs asked Edwards to sit for an endorsement interview, and Edwards wouldn’t even give them the courtesy. You could make the argument that what’s the point, since they clearly weren’t going to endorse him anyway. But one would expect the governor of the state would at least take the opportunity to open a dialogue with the state’s chamber of commerce, in the thought that if he could find a little common ground with them now, if he won the election maybe he could get some cooperation from LABI in his second term.

Nope. Not interested.

This isn’t just some personality conflict between Edwards and LABI’s president Stephen Waguespack, by the way. Waguespack isn’t the guy conducting those PAC board interviews. Prominent businesspeople from across the state are involved in those. To snub the whole bunch of them is bad politics as well as bad manners, and it’s a pretty good indication of what kind of second term Edwards would offer the state’s business community.

We’ve never seen a governor get re-elected with such a hostile attitude toward such a wide swath of a state’s productive sector, particularly in what’s supposed to be a red state. It’s hard not to see this episode as a harbinger of trouble ahead for Edwards.

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