Here’s a WBRZ-TV story which caught our eye. It’s Garret Graves, who has more or less missed his window to run for governor and is pretty clearly not running – owing to the fact he’s got his hands full in Washington, DC since House Speaker Kevin McCarthy essentially put him in charge of redesigning the federal government.
Four major Republican candidates have already said they want to be the next Governor, but some think there is room for one more Republican: Congressman Garret Graves.
There were reports earlier Thursday that Graves was feeling pressure to run, which is something he confirmed to WBRZ Thursday night.
“It is true. I have had many folks across the state that have been pushing us to run. We have met with many people over the last couple of days trying to think through the best decision,” Graves said.
But is he running out of time to announce his campaign? That question keeps being asked, especially with Attorney General Jeff Landry off to a very fast start.
Landry was endorsed by the state GOP and already has raised over $5 million for his campaign, but Graves says all he wants to do is just help the state.
“Jeff’s a friend, and we certainly wish him well. At the end of the day, it’s all about what is best for Louisiana, so just trying to figure out what the best decision is,” Graves said.
Jeremy Alford is the publisher for LAPoliticsWeekly. He says, without question, the sooner Graves announces his campaign, the better.
“The political reality is, every day Garret Graves waits to announce that he is running for Governor hurts him, if he is actually running for governor,” Alford said.
The piece trades off a USA Today network article by Greg Hilburn about how there’s “pressure” on Graves to run.
There are a bunch of factors at work here. One is that Garret Graves has way too much good stuff going on in Congress right now to spend the bulk of this year back down in Louisiana running for governor in territory where he’s more or less a stranger. They don’t know him in North Louisiana, they don’t know him very well in the New Orleans area, they don’t particularly know him in the southwestern part of the state. His district is in south-central Louisiana, Baton Rouge and the Bayou Parishes more or less, and he’s well-liked there – and for good reason, because he’s doing a great job as the congressman.
But to prepare a statewide run it takes making alliances all over the place. It takes being able to get endorsements from sheriffs and DAs and parish presidents and state legislators and so forth, people who can deliver votes.
That’s years of work in order to prepare that kind of ground. You can short-circuit it to an extent if you can plug into somebody’s machine and run as that machine’s candidate, but even that has to come from making alliances with such a machine.
Graves isn’t really that kind of politician. Graves is a policy guy. He’s the guy who knows how the wheels turn in Washington, DC and he’ll go find $6 million for a levee in St. James Parish out of some federal pot of money nobody else even knew about. That’s the kind of skill set he brings, and it’s significant. It would probably help make him a good governor if he got the job.
But he has to get the job. And that takes all the political grease you can find. Which was one of the problems David Vitter had; he was also a policy guy who didn’t really engage with all the little kingmakers because deep down he wanted to sweep most of them from power. And Vitter wasn’t wrong in that desire; the problem is, you can’t just go to war with everybody if you’re going to win in politics. You have to divide and conquer.
And you can’t divide unless your targets think they’re better off making a tenuous alliance with you than going to war with you.
Alford seems to think this is all a branding and marketing exercise designed to boost Graves’ political stock for a run later, like for example the Senate in 2026 when Bill Cassidy is expected to vacate the seat. And that’s a pretty good theory. We’ve tossed around the idea that maybe a bargain of sorts gets made, in which Graves agrees not to run for governor and/or backs Jeff Landry, and in return Landry backs Graves in 2026. Whether there’s enough leverage to make that a
The media seems to have this idea that Jeff Landry is David Vitter, because they’re both conservatives. But they aren’t. Landry does all the little retail-politics things Vitter wasn’t good at, and Landry is willing to make some of the deals Vitter wasn’t. Landry is probably the best retail politician in a governor’s race in Louisiana since Edwin Edwards, just looking at the basic block-and-tackle of campaigning and politicking, and that’s being overlooked.
It shouldn’t be. He’s already sitting on some $7.5 million or so between his campaign fund and the friendly PACs he has.
And there’s a poll paid for by Baton Rouge gun wholesaler Richard Lipsey, who was one of the Republicans who threw in behind John Bel Edwards twice and is therefore responsible for the eight-year “lost decade” Louisiana’s economy and culture has suffered (one hell of a legacy, isn’t it?), which has Jeff Landry beating Garret Graves 64-36 in a head-to-head race.
What that tells you if you’re Garret Graves is that the only way you’re going to be able to win, because in a head-to-head race with Landry he gets half the Democrats and he beats you with the Republicans, is to climb over Landry and get Shawn Wilson, the black Democrat who’ll be in the race in a couple of weeks according to current wisdom, in a runoff.
But if Landry is getting a lot more Republican votes than Garret Graves in that poll, how are you supposed to knock Landry out of the runoff?
It just doesn’t seem like it’s doable. More than that, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth doing. Not when Graves has a better option back in Washington.
What’s interesting here is how hard the state’s media, and particularly the Baton Rouge media, is trying to push Graves into the race. Sure, he’s saying he’s getting “pressure” to run. We know who’s doing that – it’s all the status quo white-Democrat crowd, a lot of the filthy-rich government contractors who want somebody other than Landry so they can keep their gravy trains running, and the Richard Lipsey country-club GOP types, of which Baton Rouge has many (and those guys have a lot to answer for with respect to the current conditions in the Capital City).
The rumor is some of these guys have promised Graves $10 million worth of contributions if he gets into the race. But that $10 million can’t overcome 64-36 with Landry in a head-to-head, And the number is worse among Republicans if Democrats are 50-50, and that matters, because some 60 percent or more of the Democrats are going to vote for Shawn Wilson in the primary seeing as though he’s going to get virtually all of the black vote.
Landry will probably have $10 million by the end of April. So what good is parity in war chests with somebody who has a larger base, a biggr machine and more name recognition than you do?
This isn’t intended to disparage Garret Graves. We like Graves. We think he’s a very effective congressman. He’s not a pure conservative, necessarily, but on most things he’s good. And at some point if he wants to be governor we think he’d do a good job.
But what’s clear here is these people who want to use Graves, particularly the white Democrats, and are promising him the bank if he gets in, are quite desperate. They’re desperate because they’re seeing a loss of influence on the way as a populist conservative like Landry grows stronger. Most of these guys were in Bobby Jindal’s camp and then they were really in John Bel Edwards’ camp, because Edwards was willing to shower his friends with government swag and change virtually none of the things wrong with Louisiana that incumbent power players don’t want to change.
They’re seeing the likelihood that all of this is going to be reshuffled with someone new, and not beholden to the political swamp at the state capitol, potentially sweeping in as governor. And they are so terrified of that they’re begging Graves to run.
But giving up the responsibilities McCarthy has given him in Washington to try to make a steep climb back here really just doesn’t make sense for Graves to do. And if he doesn’t run, that crowd is going to have to get behind someone like Sharon Hewitt or John Schroder. And neither one of them are all that well-suited to be a RINO moderate sellout – yes, it might be the only lane available for them to beat Landry, Hewitt and Schroder are both bad fits for it.
So it’s too bad. These guys spent the past eight years as Edwards’ pet poodles and did none of the work necessary to build a political engine that could win, and now they’re facing the prospect of irrelevance.
The rest of us really aren’t going to have much sympathy for their plight.