Jim Beam column:Landry, Nungesser buddies now?

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, February 22, 2023

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By Jim Beam


The Oct. 14 primary for governor, the headline race every four years, and for other statewide elected officials is beginning to take shape. However, candidates have until Aug. 8-10 to make their campaigns official.

Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry announced early on that he’s running for governor, and he has already been endorsed by the Louisiana Republican Party. Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards can’t run for a third term, and it’s expected a Republican has a good shot at becoming the next chief executive.

Two major election stories surfaced last week. The Advocate reported that Landry and GOP Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser made peace, and Shawn Wilson announced he is giving up his job as secretary of the state Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD). Wilson is expected to be a Democratic candidate for governor.

Landry is apparently no longer a bad person in Nungesser’s view. When Nungesser was thinking last December about running for governor, he said “Jeff is not a good person.” He added that he didn’t think Landry played fair and that Landry tried to strong-arm people at every turn.

“He’s not the right guy to be governor,” Nungesser said.

Republicans in the last two gubernatorial elections beat up on one another during the campaigns, and Edwards was the beneficiary both times. Landry initiated the meeting with Nungesser in an obvious attempt to avoid a repeat of previous GOP attacks.

Everything now sounds like “peaches and cream,” a very enjoyable experience. Both men said it was a good meeting and an opportunity to mend fences.

“We were able to have a great honest discussion as friends do,” Landry said… We agreed that even if we disagree, we can agree to work together. It was like a re-uniting.”

Nungesser apparently didn’t say anything about the two men establishing a close friendship. The Advocate called it an “apparent truce,” which sounds more like what it really was.

Three other Republicans running for governor are state Treasurer John Schroder of Covington, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, and state Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville. All three are St. Tammany Parish residents.

Hunter Lundy of Lake Charles is an independent candidate for governor.

Wilson is expected to announce his candidacy next month. Edwards told the Daily Advertiser of Lafayette, “He’s absolutely capable, eminently qualified and would do a great job. We would be very well served to have Shawn Wilson as our next governor.”

Landry has raised more campaign money than all of his competitors combined. He has $5 million in cash on hand and can count on another $1.5 million from a political action committee.

Candidates that prove they can raise money usually end up raising even more, and there is nearly eight months to go before the election. Wilson has some political name recognition and as a leading Democratic candidate should be able to compete financially.

Edwards had $8.3 million at this time when he ran for re-election in 2019. However, he had only $785,000 in cash when he won in 2015, according to The Advocate.

Elbert Guillory, a Republican and former state senator from Opelousas, said he is going to challenge Nungesser in the lieutenant governor’s race.

Four candidates raising money for the state attorney general’s race are Liz Murrill, the solicitor general under Landry; state Rep. John Stefanski of Crowley; John Belton, an independent and the district attorney for Lincoln and Union parishes; and Marty Maley, an attorney in West Baton Rouge Parish. Murrill, Stefanski and Maley are all  Republicans.

Republican Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin has one challenger so far. He is businessman Brandon Trosclair, also a Republican.

State Rep. Scott McKnight of Baton Rouge is a Republican running for state treasurer. Former GOP U.S. Rep. John Fleming said he is running but hasn’t announced.

Insurance Commissioner Jim  Donelon, a Republican, is running for re-election. Tim Temple, also a Republican, is challenging Donelon.

Republican Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain has no opposition at the moment.

The other major races are for seats on the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education and for members of the state House and Senate. Local sheriffs, clerks of court, tax assessors, coroners, police jurors, parish council presidents and parish council members are also up for election.

Calcasieu Parish has two elections for seats on the 14th Judicial District Court and other parishes may have some special elections. As elections go, this one is still fairly far off and we can expect an awful lot of politicking between now and then.