Is The 2023 LAGOV Race Suffering From A Failure To Launch?

Apparently so, according to a post at WWL Radio’s website on Tuesday. It seems that the prospective candidates for the governor’s race next fall are operating more cautiously than they should rather than getting their campaigns ready for launch.

Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited and while the next gubernatorial elections aren’t until the fall of 2023, political observers have noticed something is missing.

By this time in Bobby Jindal’s second term, we already had some major announcements.

“David Vitter, if we were in this same time frame for the last open election, he had announced on YouTube about a week ago. John Bel Edwards had been raising money for about a year. Jay Dardenne’s web site had been up for about a month,” said LaPolitics.com publisher Jeremey Alford. “We’re kind of like almost a little bit behind where we were during the last open cycle, so we should start hearing some names here, soon.”

Alford says Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser and Attorney General Jeff Landry are likely candidates but haven’t said anything official, and that may be causing others to take a “wait-and-see” approach.

Our take is this might be a little premature.

In a month or so we’re going to see financial disclosures from the various players in the race showing what they raised in 2021. When we see those numbers we’re going to know who’s been preparing to launch a gubernatorial run and who isn’t.

We know Jeff Landry is running. We can be pretty sure Nungesser is running. John Schroder looks like he’s going to launch a campaign. Those three are loudly moving in the direction of a campaign launch, and it would be likely to see those three getting into the race sometime this spring.

Then there’s state representative Richard Nelson, who’s been talking about running. Nelson would be a long shot and we don’t know how much he’s going to have in the bank, but experience shows that long shot candidates should never be dismissed in a gubernatorial race in Louisiana – the long shots have won more races than not over the past 50 years. State senator Rick Ward has had buzz around him, but we’ve seen far less evidence of a Ward launch than the others so far.

And then there is this Bill Cassidy gambit. But Cassidy isn’t going to run, we don’t think, because we can’t think of anybody who would actually support him. Getting a campaign off the ground for him will be exceptionally difficult.

Do we have any Democrats yet? Not really. There have been fleeting discussions surrounding state senator Gary Smith and public service commissioner Foster Campbell. But none of them are actively raising money.

But is Alford’s contention, which is factual, substantive? Is this a late-arriving race?

It might be.

There are factors driving this. Off hand we can think of three.

First, Louisiana’s economy is absolutely down the tubes at present, and because of that there isn’t that much political money out there. Fundraising in the state has been very difficult over the past year, according to the people in that business we’ve talked to. As a result it’s been more difficult to launch a campaign across the board in Louisiana now than it has been in the past. That’s likely to mean fewer campaigns for statewide and other offices, and campaigns which start later.

Second, Landry and Nungesser are crowding out others who might like to run. The fact both have been so open about running has made it harder for others to get a campaign off the ground.

And third, as Jeff Sadow noted this week, the Democrats are flat on their backs right now. It’s interesting that we’ve seen two terms of John Bel Edwards and yet his party is a lot worse off electorally in Louisiana than when he went into office in 2015. Edwards has no successor ready to run, and most people don’t think a white trial-lawyer Democrat has an avenue to winning after eight years of Edwards. It’s interesting that his public approval numbers have hovered around 50 percent as long as they have and yet there is so little enthusiasm for him or any particular momentum behind his party.

Democrats are down to 40.0 percent of the registered voters in Louisiana, the lowest number on record. And of the registered Democrats in Louisiana, only 36 percent of them are white. The Democrat Party in Louisiana is almost twice as black as it is white. This would indicate black Democrats should be taking over that party, but there is a severe dearth of ambition among black Democrat politicians.

We’re waiting for a Stacey Abrams to emerge on the Democrat side. One is inevitable, but so far as yet unidentified.

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