North shore judge blocks an anti-Jeff Landry ad as governor’s race intensifies

Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 7:56 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - As the start of early voting for the Oct. 14 primary election in Louisiana approaches, the race for governor is intensifying. And this week a Covington judge gave Attorney General and Republican frontrunner Jeff Landry a win when he ordered an anti-Landry attack ad off the airwaves.

Judge Raymond Childress of the 22nd Judicial Court on Monday (Sept. 11) issued a temporary restraining order against an ad run by a group called Louisiana Leadership Fund. According to court documents, the ad was challenged by citizen Dawn Michele Avery of Mandeville.

“It was not at all accurate about what had happened and Jeff Landry is very glad that the court has taken action to take this false ad off the air,” said Brent Littlefield, a strategist and consultant for Landry’s gubernatorial campaign.

The ad claimed a wealthy donor found with child pornography had a personal connection with Landry and that the attorney general waited a year before charging the individual. Landry’s camp says the account was untrue and that the defendant was arrested, convicted and sentenced to prison.

“It painted a picture that Jeff Landry does not hold those who commit crimes against children accountable,” Littlefield said. “He spent almost his entire time as attorney general taking on those people that would harm children and a lot of those folks have been convicted.”

Dillard University political analyst Dr. Robert Collins said Landry remains ahead in the polls.

“Nothing has really changed in the race over the past three months,” Collins said. “We see that Jeff Landry is still leading in every poll that we’ve seen. He’s still leading in fundraising totals.”

But Collins said the legal challenge to get the ad removed shows Landry is not taking anything for granted.

“He is concerned about negative advertising against him, and of course he realizes that the only way for the other candidates to catch him in this race is for them to start attacking him with negative ads, because they have to reduce his favorable numbers,” Collins said.

Landry’s campaign is pointing fingers at Stephen Waguespack, another Republican running for governor.

In a press release, Landry campaign communications director Kate Kelly said, “This advertisement was a blatant lie against Jeff Landry, and it was rightfully taken down. The Waguespack campaign is using dark money to hide from voters. This was a desperate attempt by Waguespack to manipulate voters and it’s shameful.”

Fox 8 asked Littlefield for proof of that assertion.

“Well, there was paperwork associated with this dark money group, of this advertising,” he said. “And when you track the various addresses that were associated with the dark money group it was addressed, is this address of another dark money group that spent huge sums of money to benefit Stephen Waguespack.”

Waguespack’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Fox 8 checked the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website for information on Louisiana Leadership Fund LLC, but did not find a registration for the group. And no one answered the phone number listed on the ad.

A group hearing on the TRO is set for Friday.

“We expect we will prevail once again,” Littlefield said.

Early voting begins Sept. 30, and observers expect Political Action Committees and Super PACs to increase their spending as election day nears.

“Basically, the Super PACs -- provided they don’t coordinate with the candidates -- can basically raise as much money as they want and spend as much money as they want,” Collins said. “And most of the Super PAC money comes from outside of the state.”

Littlefield said, “Certainly, PACs are a big role in campaigns and that’s going to continue.”

Besides Waguespack and Landry, other candidates in the race include Louisiana treasurer John Schroder, Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Rep. Richard Nelson, former Department of Transportation chief Shawn Wilson and attorney Hunter Lundy.

Pundits say a runoff is expected.

“The current expectation is that it will be Jeff Landry leading and Shawn Wilson in the runoff with him,” Collins said. “Shawn Wilson’s position in the runoff seems to be secure, simply because he is the only major Democrat in the race and he has secured the endorsements of every major Democratic elected official in the state.”

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