Louisiana Governor's race: Here's who's in (sort of), who's on the fence for 2023
Louisiana's 2023 governor's race may be months away, but that doesn't mean potential candidates aren't at least lining up in the starting blocks.
From Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry passing out campaign hats at his annual alligator hunt fundraiser last weekend to Republican Treasurer John Schroder telling supporters that he's in through a January email to Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser saying he "plans" to run while speaking at an event in Lake Providence in August, the early favorites are at least gearing up for the race.
Yet Landry, Schroder, and Nungesser won't fully commit, leaving open the possibility that they could back out to keep their current jobs if future polls show them lagging.
"It's almost become a vaudeville act with people running with a wink and a smile," said Jeremy Alford, publisher of LaPolitics Weekly and The Tracker. "I've developed a spreadsheet with 13 names, but nobody wants to officially announce."
Here's the latest:
Bill Nungesser: The lieutenant governor said he is finalizing his campaign team this week, but won't put them to work until 2023 if he decides to run.
"I'm preparing to run, but I won't make a final decision until January," Nungesser told USA Today Network this week. "Preparing to run and running are two different things.
"If I pull the trigger we will have a campaign team second to none, but I love what I do. I have the best job in the world, so it's not an easy decision."
John Schroder: In January, Schroder seemed clear about his intentions in the following text to supporters obtained by USA Today Network: "Just wanted to let you know that the Schroder family has met, and we will be entering the governor's race. Timeline for announcement is not set yet, but I wanted to let you know."
But Schroder continued to couch his "announcement" this week.
"I am giving this very strong consideration and I am encouraged by the support and feedback I have gotten in my travels across this great state from so many people," he said in a text Tuesday.
Jeff Landry: Landry seemed to make his bid semi-official during his famous fundraiser Friday with hats and shirts featuring "Team Landry Governor" logos.
Landry hasn't responded to an interview request this week, but has generally been considered on a path for the governor's race since Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards won reelection in 2019.
His top aide, Solicitor General Liz Murrill, has been actively campaigning for attorney general for months, and Murrill said she would not seek the job if Landry wasn't leaving.
Congressional delegation: Republican U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy and Republican Baton Rouge Congressman Garret Graves aren't overtly campaigning for governor, but they aren't ruling it out either.
"All year we've been talking about the Big 3 (Landry, Nungesser and Schroder), but we really should be talking about the Big 6 (with Cassidy, Kennedy and Graves)," Alford said. "But of course none of those three could begin a campaign before the congressional mid-term elections."
Kennedy and Graves are heavy favorites in their reelection bids Nov. 8. Cassidy isn't up for reelection until 2026.
Cassidy and Graves have both at least said they may consider a run. Kennedy hasn't yet hinted publicly that he's interested, although many like Alford believe he remains a possibility.
And one state senator believes he found what's known as an Easter egg in Kennedy's campaign ad, where Kennedy says he will continue fighting for his Louisiana constituents "until you tell me to come home."
"When Kennedy says 'until you tell me to come home' that means tell him to come home to be governor," said the lawmaker, who asked for anonymity.
Nungesser said he's heard all three federal officeholders are interested.
"Everybody has heard rumors they are considering the race," Nungesser said.
State legislative delegation: Republican Slidell Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, Democratic Sen. Gary Smith of Norco, Republican Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville and Democratic Rep. Robby Carter of Greensburg are all considered contenders.
All have expressed possible interest.
Hewitt almost ran against Edwards in 2019 before running for reelection to her Senate seat. She is considered most likely to make a bid.
And just this week, when asked, Nelson texted: "Working on it."
Others: Democratic Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr., who's running against Kennedy in the U.S. Senate race, is expected to run for governor if he can't upset Kennedy.
Republican West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard, who previously served in the Louisiana House, and Hunter Lundy, an Independent attorney from southwestern Louisiana, have also said they may test the waters.
For the record, qualifying for the governor's race is Aug. 8-10, 2023.
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.