Louisiana’s governor’s race begins to take shape

Published: Jan. 10, 2023 at 7:56 PM CST
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KENNER, La. (WVUE) - At the same venue on the same day, one Louisiana Republican said he will be a candidate for governor and another said he will not.

State Treasurer John Schroder told Fox 8 that he is entering this year’s race for governor.

“It really has nothing to do with who else is running or who isn’t running,” Schroder said Tuesday (Jan. 10) before a speaking appearance in Kenner. “It’s about the things that I believe I can bring to the table -- my experiences, both in business and government -- and I think I can be a good CEO for this state.”

Meanwhile, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said he will not enter the race, but will instead seek re-election to his current job. He said he loves the role and wants to continue helping the state’s tourism sector recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I prayed about it. And I need to -- if the people will have me -- stay and finish the job,” Nungesser said.

The only other declared candidate so far is Attorney General Jeff Landry, another Republican.

Schroder, a former state lawmaker, said he believes he is best equipped to tackle the state’s problems.

“I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been in Baton Rouge the last 14 years,” he said. “And I’ve learned a lot as state treasurer. I manage over a $60-plus billion operation.”

Nungesser said he seriously considered entering the race and even conducted a poll.

“The poll showed, and I’m honored, I had the highest approval rating statewide and the lowest negative of anybody,” Nungesser said. “The poll was extremely encouraging, and looking at that made the decision even that much more difficult.”

He conceded the race would be brutal.

“It wouldn’t’ve been an easy battle, because some people would rather talk and tell stories about other people than talk about the things they’re going to do as an elected official,” Nungesser said. “And so it would have probably been a nasty campaign.”

Schroder says the potential tone of the campaign was a consideration as he and his wife pondered whether he should run.

“I got thick skin,” he said. “I was built for this. I don’t like bullies, I’ve been a bully-buster my entire life.”

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry announced on Wednesday, Oct. 5, that he will indeed run for governor.

Fox 8 requested an interview with Landry for this story, but his political adviser Brent Littlefield responded instead, saying Landry was busy doing his job as the state’s top attorney.

“Attorney General Jeff Landry is focused on the job he’s doing as attorney general,” Littlefield said. “He’s out there fighting for the people of Louisiana every day, fighting to solve the problems of crime, making sure we stand up for parents when it comes to kids’ education.”

The Louisiana Republican Party endorsed Landry on Nov. 7, drawing the ire of some other Republicans.

Nungesser is critical of the move by his political party.

“Unfortunately, the extremists have hijacked the party, and that’s not what this party was built on,” he said.

Schroder said he gave little attention to the state GOP’s early endorsement of Landry.

“That’s really not factored into my decision-making,” he said.

Schroder said, if elected, he would work to better the state and grow its population.

“If we don’t get a hold of this crime problem, that’s taken not only just our metro areas but working its way into these rural areas, we’re in serious trouble,” Schroder said. “We have to take our streets back.”

Nungesser said simply criticizing New Orleans’ crime problems in national media interviews isn’t showing leadership.

“When you use the national stage to tear down the cities, to talk about ... we know we got problems. You need to roll up your sleeves and go to work and fix them, and that’s unfortunate,” he said.

Asked if he was referring to Landry, Nungesser said, “Well, If the shoe fits, wear it.”

Littlefield said Landry will not shy away from speaking about crime issues.

“Attorney General Jeff Landry is going to continue to talk about crime, education, the issues that matter to the people of the state,” Littlefield said.

Landry, who has worked to closely align himself with former president Donald Trump, is expected to have a financial advantage as the campaign season begins.

“So far, cash on hand, money in the bank, this campaign has over $5 million,” Littlefield said. “We have another $1.5 million-plus in our leadership PAC.”

Schroder said he believes he will be able to raise sufficient campaign funds for his race.

“At the end of the day, I know I won’t have the most money, but I think we’ll have enough,” Schroder said.

Fox 8 political analyst Mike Sherman said Schroder could appeal to voters that Landry might not attract in the Oct. 14 primary election.

“We have a formidable opponent (in Schroder),” Sherman said. “Jeff Landry has moved so right in his party, there’s a space left in the middle. And that’s actually the majority of Louisianans, who are just right-of-center moderates.”

Schroder said, “I tell people this: I served in the military, I was in law enforcement, I‘ve taken several oaths of office. When you take that oath, it doesn’t say, ‘I’m going to represent Republicans or Democrats.’ You represent all the people.”

Others considering the race are Sen. Sharon Hewitt, East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore, Rep. Richard Nelson, Sen. Gary Smith, and Shawn Wilson, who leads the Louisiana Department of Transportation and Development.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited and cannot seek another term in office.

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