Waguespack Responds to Rumors He Plans to Run for Governor

KENNER, La. — During an impromptu meeting with reporters after his appearance at a March 7 Jefferson Chamber of Commerce event, business lobbyist Stephen Waguespack did not confirm reports that he plans to enter the race for Louisiana governor. 

But he definitely didn’t deny them either.

The president and CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business & Industry, who is a Republican, said he’s taking time to reflect and decide. The conversation took place in a ballroom at the Airport Hilton after Waguespack shared a stage with Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. to talk about the business groups’ legislative priorities.

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“There’s been a ton of positive reinforcement and calls coming in,” Waguespack told reporters. “And it’s been overwhelming and humbling. My wife Colleen and I are taking a look at them, praying, reflecting, and we’re talking to family and friends. I think this is one of the most important elections in generations here, and so we want to do our part in any way we can to make sure that’s an effective one.”

Combined with online leaks over the last 24 hours, that statement sounds a lot like it’s coming from a man preparing to throw his hat in the ring. If he does, the race would gain a business-friendly candidate with years of experience lobbying the Louisiana Legislature. Before that, he served as former Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff. Since 2013, Waguespack has led LABI, which is one of the state’s most powerful business groups.

He said his current job has helped him understand the priorities of Louisiana business owners and citizens.

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I’ve spent most of my career trying to help the state reform itself and reach new heights,” he said. “We spent the last several months going around the state, visiting local business leaders, local community leaders and hearing their concerns: better school systems, safer communities, competing with other states in the South, keeping our kids at home.”

The rumors about Waguespack’s intentions cropped up after news broke that U.S. Rep. Garret Graves has decided not to run. That means the Republican slate includes State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, State Rep. Richard Nelson, Louisiana Treasurer John Schroder and some lesser-known candidates. Shawn Wilson, the state’s former Department of Transportation and Development Secretary, is the most prominent Democrat to announce. 

Waguespack presumably would take on the role of moderate Republican that Graves would have filled.

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For his part, Waguespack emphasized that his current area of concentration prepares him well for the state’s top job.

“I think jobs and growth is always a good thing,” he said. “I think Louisiana has tremendous opportunity right now, because there is a southern renaissance going on. There are southern states that are blowing and going right now. And they are absolutely taking on market share and families from all across the country. There’s a tremendous opportunity for Louisiana. So no matter what I do, I’m going to absolutely have my sleeves rolled up, ready to help make sure that Louisiana takes advantage of this great opportunity.”

As reported by the Louisiana Illuminator, the Waguespack news is a surprise, especially considering he made no mention of his intentions when he moderated a March 3 gubernatorial campaign forum for LABI. During the event he interviewed the four announced Republican candidates for governor.

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