Rep. Garret Graves opts out of Louisiana governor race, but loose ends remain

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Republican Baton Rouge U.S. Rep. Garret Graves is opting out of the Louisiana governor's race, choosing to remain in Congress to leverage his growing influence for the state's benefit, he said in an email to supporters Tuesday.

That leaves the door open for Louisiana Republican Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder and Republican Louisiana Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack, who also served as former GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal's chief of staff.

Both Schexnayder and Waguespack have said they are considering the race, but Schexnayder specifically said he wouldn't run if Graves did.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited after eight years and can't run during this cycle.

Republicans who are already committed to the race include state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell; Attorney General Jeff Landry; state Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville; and Treasurer John Schroder. Landry has secured the early endorsement of the Louisiana Republican Party and is far outpacing the others in fundraising.

Independent Hunter Lundy, a wealthy attorney from Lake Charles, is also running.

Former Louisiana Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson is the only Democrat to announce. He has the backing of Edwards, who endorsed Wilson Tuesday.

Republican Louisiana Congressman Garret Graves speaks after qualifying for reelection on July 22, 2022.

In a recent interview with USA Today Network, Graves signaled that his rising leadership position in the House would give him pause to enter the governor's race, despite feeling "extraordinary pressure" to do so.

Graves has key assignments on House Transportation, where he also chairs the Subcommittee on Aviation, and House Natural Resources, all critical seats at the table for Louisiana.

More:Garret Graves feels 'extraordinary pressure' to run for Louisiana governor

He has also become one of the kingmakers within the Republican Conference as a staunch ally of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has appointed Graves to chair a council of GOP leadership and placed him on the steering committee that doles out coveted committee assignments.

"That's one of the reasons why the whole governor's race is a difficult decision," Graves said in the interview. "I'm a big fan of (McCarthy's) and I'm close to him."

Qualifying for the Oct. 14 primary election is Aug. 8-10.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.