Jim Beam column:GOP leader ‘goes off deep end’

Published 6:40 am Monday, January 23, 2023

By Jim Beam

When is the last time you can remember when a political party leader told one of its members they couldn’t run for public office? I’ve been in this news business for over 62 years and the Louisiana Republican Party now holds that unbelievable distinction.

Louis Gurvich, chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, warned GOP U.S. Rep. Garret Graves of Baton Rouge not to join the 2023 governor’s race. The state party endorsed state Attorney General Jeff Landry for governor nearly a year before the race, which was criticized by other candidates.

State Treasurer John Schroder and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, both Republicans who have announced for governor, and GOP  Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who said he isn’t running, were extremely critical of the party’s decision to back Landry so early.

Gurvich in a newsletter said Graves was about to announce for governor and he shouldn’t risk upsetting Landry’s path to the Governor’s Mansion, according to a news report in The Advocate.

Richard Lipsey, a Republican donor who has also backed current Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, spoke for many others in this state when he said GOP brass is “incompetent” and that Gurvich’s letter was “pitiful.”

The newspaper said Graves is the biggest name still undecided on the race after Republican U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy said they weren’t running.

“Unity Is Our Only Path to Victory” was the title of Gurvich’s newsletter. He said although Graves is “likable” and effective in Congress, it would be a “terrible mistake” for him to run for governor.

That is about as good of a back-handed compliment as I have ever heard. And you have to love the definition of a back-handed compliment. It is described as “an insult that is poorly disguised as a compliment, oftentimes rooted in the insecurities of the person (Gurvich) delivering it.”

Gurvich said Graves would be betraying a “sacred compact” with the voters who just re-elected him. The chairman also assumes Graves would have to “relentlessly attack” Landry to win, repeating the dynamics of 2015 and 2019 when Edwards was elected.

Donations are flooding in for Landry, Gurvich said. “Everything points to a successful fund-raising campaign over the next several months, and with only minor candidates to oppose him, Jeff’s pathway to the governorship has been eased considerably. Why change all that for the sake of one congressman’s ego?”

How do you suppose Schroder, Hewitt and others who will run feel about being called “minor candidates?”

Most of that is pure speculation on Gurvich’s part. He doesn’t know why or if Graves is running. The fact is he might run because some voters are looking for other candidates.

Graves picked up 80 percent of the vote in his re-election bid for the 6th Congressional District seat, more than the other Republicans running for Congress last Nov. 8. U.S. Rep. Troy Carter of New Orleans, the only Democrat in the congressional delegation, was second with 77 percent of the vote in his 2nd Congressional District.

Lipsey offered some excellent rebuttal to everything Gurvich said. He said Republicans aren’t going to let a “select group of insiders pick their candidate.” He questioned, for example, the fact that some GOP leaders are backing Mike Lindell —the CEO of MyPillow, and a prominent peddler of election fraud conspiracy theories — for the chairmanship of the Republican National Committee.

It’s extremely unlikely, Lipsey said, that Graves’ congressional seat would go to a Democrat as Gurvich suggested because the 6th District is solid Republican. “… Drawing on comments from some of my friends, I would hope that Mr.  Gurvich is only lying because I hope he is not that unintelligent,” Lipsey said.

It’s easy to understand why the state Republican Party’s leadership is so opposed to the possibility Graves might run for governor. Ron Faucheux, a respected state political analyst, said Graves would be a formidable candidate and could be a major contender from “Day One.”

Trey Ourso, who helped Edwards get elected twice, said an “anybody but Landry” movement is already brewing. If he runs, Graves would be a major beneficiary.

Before Nungesser decided not to run, he said, “I have to run. Jeff is not a good person.”

Voters want a governor who is capable, willing to work with others, and someone who is more moderate than Landry. Polls done by Sen. Kennedy made it clear that Landry is not the winner Gurvich and his party make him out to be.

Jim Beam can be reached at news@americanpress.com.