Garret Graves Gets Endorsed By The LAGOP, But He Might Not Like It

Here was a fun press release that the Republican Party of Louisiana put out yesterday. On the surface it’s completely anodyne and everything you’d expect…

May 23, 2024

BATON ROUGE, LA— The Executive Committee of the Republican Party of Louisiana has voted unanimously to endorse all of Louisiana’s incumbent Republican members of Congress for re-election in their existing congressional districts:

  • Steve Scalise CD 1
  • Clay Higgins CD 3
  • Mike Johnson CD 4
  • Julia Letlow CD 5
  • Garret Graves CD 6

“As we’ve seen over the last two years, every single vote in the U.S. House of Representatives is critical to holding the majority and passing our conservative agenda,” Republican Party of Louisiana Chairman Derek Babcock said. “We know that losing just one seat in Louisiana this fall could make the difference between keeping Mike Johnson as Speaker of the House and Steve Scalise as Majority Leader or having to hand over power to Hakeem Jefferies and the Democrats in January,” he said.

“With so much at stake for both our state and nation on the ballot this year, the Republican Party of Louisiana is uniting behind our incumbents in Congress and working to ensure that we send all of them back to Washington,” Babcock said.

“Well, yeah,” you’ll say. “Obviously they’re going to endorse all the incumbents.”

Yes, but there is more to this. Because the LAGOP has endorsed Garret Graves in the 6th District, which is the one the state legislature redrew as a DEI district affording affirmative action for black politicians – in this case Cleo Fields, who the chalk says is likely to win election.

And Graves hasn’t said he’s running in the 6th District. Graves might run in the 3rd District, or the 5th District.

So what the LAGOP has done, in what looks like the first political move its new chairman Derek Babcock has made, is essentially to declare that Garret Graves has a lane to run in with the party’s support. But any other lane save that one would mean he’ll run against someone who has the LAGOP’s support.

If he runs against Clay Higgins or Julia Letlow, the party will oppose him. So will House Speaker Mike Johnson, who is going to control millions and millions of dollars’ worth of campaign funds. So will Gov. Jeff Landry.

And in all likelihood so will Donald Trump.

But if he does the difficult thing and run against Cleo Fields in the 6th District, meaning that he goes for re-election in a much less desirable reconfigured 6th, all of those forces will array themselves behind him.

Graves’ quote a few days ago on the issue was pretty standard pol-speak, mixed in with some quite understandable pique over the fact a Republican legislature likely drew him out of a seat in Congress and the Supreme Court was cool with a racially-gerrymandered 6th District…

“The good news is that Louisiana has a congressional map for this election cycle – something we haven’t solidly had since January of this year.

“The bad news is that Wednesday’s Supreme Court ruling is only a temporary calm before the gathering storm of uncertainty for at least 2 more years, possibly more.

“The Supreme Court ruling lazily applied the Purcell Principle, ignoring Louisiana’s last-in-the-nation qualifying and last-in-the-nation November primary, which is plenty of time to conduct an election, according to sworn testimony by Secretary of State’s representatives.

“By favoring process over merit, the Court’s actions forces voters to a fall election using an unconstitutional, confusing map.

“As previously stated, we are running for re-election in a district anchored in the Capital Region. Because of the absurdity of the map, we are looking through these districts to determine where we can best represent the interests and priorities of the people of Louisiana for the next two years until a reasonable map is restored.”

We really don’t think he can beat Letlow in the 5th District, plus he’s going to look like a jerk running against his old friend Luke Letlow’s widow. And running against Higgins in a district which is mostly Southwest Louisiana doesn’t seem any better.

Is it unappetizing having to run against Fields? Yes. Can Graves win that race? We’re not sure. He has a lot of money to make that race, and it’s pretty likely that turnout this fall will be lopsided for the GOP which should help with the demographic problems inherent in a majority-black DEI district, but Graves will still have to make major inroads with the black community, most specifically in places north and west of Baton Rouge where nobody knows who Garret Graves is.

That’s tough. It’s not surprising that he hasn’t declared for the 6th District.

We’ve got another option, one we mentioned a couple of months ago when the subject of what Graves was going to do came up. And it’s this: he ought to run for mayor-president in Baton Rouge.

Right now there is no Republican candidate in that race, which is a damned shame. Sharon Weston Broome is an absolute disaster as Baton Rouge’s mayor; she’s had two terms and everything is worse. She wasted the last four years fighting the St. George incorporation and lost, and now she’s praying for a last-minute reprieve from the Louisiana Supreme Court which will not come.

Broome is going to lose re-election. But as of right now she’s going to lose to Ted James, the former state representative who just left a deadhead job at Joe Biden’s Small Business Administration to get back into politics. A few days ago James reported that he had $473,000 in his campaign account, while Broome is sitting on $320,000.

Those are rookie numbers compared to what Graves has, and he can raise a lot more.

Broome and James are likely to be at each other’s throats. Neither one of them are particularly energetic campaigners. James is one of the laziest politicians in Louisiana; he’s been getting funding from business people in Baton Rouge essentially because he’s not Broome. In fact, not being Broome is really all he has to offer – that and the idea that it’ll be the business community and the white voters who would make him mayor and therefore he would have to pay off that support.

Introduce Graves to that equation and Ted James becomes either a spoiler who saps Broome’s support and then auctions himself and his support off in the runoff (an auction that Graves could easily win, because Ted James at the end of the day is fairly transactional), or he knocks Broome out of the runoff and then it’s an interesting runoff race between Graves and James.

East Baton Rouge Parish, in the congressional map the 2022 elections were run through (the 5-1 map the Legislature replaced earlier this year thanks to partisan Democrat federal judge Shelly Dick in Baton Rouge), had two districts. Some 247 of the parish’s 328 precincts were in Graves’ 6th District; the other 81 were in the 2nd District represented by Troy Carter.

And Graves got 77 percent of the vote in his part of the parish. That was 84,768 votes. Another Republican, Brian Belzer, got 5,481 votes, or five percent. The other 18 percent went to Rufus Craig, the libertarian. No Democrat ran.

In the 81 precincts of the 2nd District, Troy Carter got 95 percent of the vote. That was 18,998 votes. A Republican, Dan Lux, got the other 956 votes. Turnout in the 2nd District race was 35 percent. It was 51 percent in the 6th District.


The point being that Garret Graves got a big majority of the vote in East Baton Rouge Parish the last time he ran, and he wasn’t even on the ballot in about a quarter of the parish. He got about 85,000 of about 130,000 votes that voters in East Baton Rouge made for Congress.

Does that translate to a mayor’s race? Probably not completely, we’ll grant, but on the other hand the last several mayor’s races in Baton Rouge have seen very, very underwhelming Republican candidates running. And the two opponents Broome has had have run more or less moribund campaigns. Bodi White nearly won nonetheless.

Is East Baton Rouge Parish a lost demographic cause? The latest voter registration numbers for the parish are three weeks old, and here’s what they say…

  • There are 286,395 registered voters in East Baton Rouge;
  • 140,822 (49.2 percent) are white, 127,192 (44.4 percent) are black, and 18,381 are “other”;
  • 130,474 (45.6 percent) are Democrats, with a nearly equal share of the remaining 54 percent being Republicans and Independents.

The key to winning a parish-wide race in East Baton Rouge is to bring home the lion’s share of the 28,000 white Democrats in the parish. These are a lot of state workers and faculty and staff at LSU, plus you have some trial lawyers and “urbane” leftists in the mix as well.

The thing is that most of those people actually like Garret Graves. He could absolutely take that vote away from Broome or James, in ways that White and Steve Carter, the last two Republicans who lost to Broome in 2016 and 2020, could not.

Let’s also remember that in Shreveport and Monroe, white Republicans – in Monroe, Friday Ellis ran as an independent, but everybody knows he’s with the GOP – were able to take out black Democrat incumbents who proved their incompetence and ineffectiveness in the last couple of years.

It’s a very winnable race. It’s more winnable than the 6th District race is, and it’s definitely more winnable than the 3rd and the 5th.

And if Graves wins it, a few things are true.

First, he’s a hero for recapturing Louisiana’s second largest city for the GOP. That in and of itself takes him from being the outcast nobody else in the state’s congressional delegation – or the state’s governor – likes to being the guy whose success everyone is invested in because he’s saving the capital city in Louisiana from Democrat decline.

Second, as mayor his term coincides with the presidential cycle, which is generally an off-cycle for Louisiana’s elections. Meaning he could park in that job while considering other jumps – Graves could run for Bill Cassidy’s Senate seat in 2026, though that field might be crowded, or he could run for something statewide in the 2027 cycle, without having to give up his mayorship if he doesn’t win.

Third, there’s a three-term limit as Baton Rouge’s mayor, as opposed to the more conventional two-term limit. So Graves could park in that job for 12 years, and if he did he’d likely end up as the guy who completely covered the city-parish with his mark. One assumes that a Republican mayor-president in East Baton Rouge Parish would oversee some pretty significant economic and population growth, and that would likely flip the demographics of the place much more toward a Republican-favorable model. What that means is he could make himself a very big wheel not just in local politics but at the state level, and if and when he decided to move on to something else he’d create a sizable wake for himself that he doesn’t currently have.

It’s a different sort of playing field than the one he has now, and to a large extent he would be punching down. We get that. But if the question for Graves is (1) how he can do the most good while (2) trying not to tilt at windmills, we think he’s better off running for mayor than trying to unseat Fields in a district that was drawn specifically to pay him off for quietly helping Landry win in the gubernatorial primary last year.

But what’s clearly not going to happen, especially thanks to the LAGOP’s statement, is Garret Graves getting anywhere trying to capture support for knocking off Higgins or Letlow. The party has made that unmistakable without coming out and saying it today.



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