Here’s Who’s Running for Governor in Louisiana This October

BATON ROUGE (AP) — The former head of one of Louisiana’s most powerful business groups, Stephen Waguespack, and 37-year-old state Rep. Richard Nelson round out the crowded list of GOP candidates who will be on the ballot for Louisiana’s Oct. 14 gubernatorial election.

After months of speculation, candidates competing in the fall election — which will have five state offices without an incumbent, including governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer and insurance commissioner — is finally solidified as the last day to sign up for races came to an end Thursday. In total 16 people signed up to run for governor, with seven serious candidates vying for the state’s top position.

The conclusion of qualifying days also marks the unofficial intensifying of campaign season. Multiple gubernatorial candidates took aim at GOP front-runner Jeff Landry, the state’s attorney general who is backed by former President Donald Trump.

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Waguespack accused Landry’s campaign of threatening his donors with “consequences” if they continue to support him — calling the tactic “trash.” The Republican also said that he has heard threats that if he qualified for the race, donors of Landry’s would increase campaign funds to attack Waguespack’s reputation and character.

“My wife and I talked about it … You say, ‘Okay what’s best for our family? What’s best for our state?’” Waguespack said after officially signing up for the race Thursday. “And it just made me want to dig my heels in.”

Waguespack previously served as senior aide to former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Most recently he was the president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry for 10 years, before resigning to run for governor.

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The candidate outlined his priorities Thursday with a focus on job creation and strengthening the workforce, in the hopes of attracting and keeping people in Louisiana. The Deep South state saw one of the steepest population drops in the country. Between 2021 and 2020, Louisiana’s population decreased by 36,857 people. The current population sits at about 4.6 million.

“We’re going to create a valid pathway for you here in Louisiana. No more watching you drift to Texas or … underemployed people drift to crime,” Waguespack said.

Also officially signing up for the race is Nelson. At 37 years old he is the youngest prominent candidate. The Republican lawmaker, who described himself as a moderate — opposing some legislation that Democrats describe as anti-LGBTQ+ and supporting rape and incest exceptions to the state’s near-total abortion ban.

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Nelson, an attorney and biological engineer, spent seven years with the U.S. State Department, including overseas, before he was elected to the state House in 2019. As a lawmaker he has proposed legislation designed to improve literacy and eliminate the state income tax.

“If this was the LSU football team and we lost every game every year we would fire the coach, the trainers and even the mascot,” he said, using the state’s beloved college team as an analogy for the political scene. “But, for some reason in Louisiana we send the same politicians, running the same plays, year after year.”

Louisiana is the only state in the Deep South with a Democrat for governor, a rarity among conservative states. But Gov. John Bel Edwards is unable to seek reelection due to term limits — opening up a huge opportunity for Republicans to take control of the state’s highest office. Louisiana is one of three states with a gubernatorial election this fall, along with Mississippi and Kentucky.

Among the Republican gubernatorial candidates are Nelson, Waguespack, Landry, Treasurer John Schroder, and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt. Lake Charles-based attorney Hunter Lundy is running as an independent and Shawn Wilson, the former head of the Transportation and Development Department, is the sole prominent Democratic candidate.

Under Louisiana’s open primary system, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run against one another on the same ballot in October. If no candidate tops 50% in that primary, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election on Nov. 18.

For the full list of candidates who signed up to run for statewide and parish races, visit the Louisiana Secretary of State’s website.

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