Stephen Waguespack joins Louisiana governor race as Republican field swells
Stephen Waguespack, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and former Gov. Bobby Jindal's chief of staff, is the latest Republican running for governor in a crowded GOP field.
Waguespack informed members of his LABI board in a Thursday afternoon email.
"I am stepping down to run for governor of Louisiana," he said in the email. "The stakes are high, time is of the essence and I cannot sit on the sidelines when the future of our state is at stake."
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 Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who endorsed Wilson Tuesday. Edwards is term-limited and can't run again in this cycle.
Waguespack has led LABI for the past 10 years.
"I am committed to doing everything in my power to help the people of this state have good jobs, quality schools and safe communities," he said in the email. "I will work to reduce the inefficiencies that are smothering our small businesses, repair the broken infrastructure putting a choke hold on our economy and restore personal freedoms for families."
Waguespack's announcement comes two days after his friend Republican Congressman Garret Graves opted out of the race. Both worked for the Jindal administration.
Graves signaled his support for Waguespack in his statement Tuesday.
"In the coming days, the field for governor will brighten," Graves said. "And Louisiana will have a generational opportunity to write America's greatest comeback story."
Waguespack said he expects opponents to disparage his service with Jindal, a two-term governor whose popularity waned badly at the end of his tenure, but Waguespack said he is looking ahead rather than behind.
More:Rep. Garret Graves opts out of Louisiana governor race, but loose ends remain
"The entrenched status quo may try to smear me and distract voters from the true issues that face our families," he said. "They will want to focus on Louisiana’s past but I will be laser-focused on Louisiana’s future.
"Louisiana is at a crossroads. The rest of the South is booming but Louisiana is falling behind. We must demand better and this is the moment to take a stand."
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.