The likely Republican candidates for governor all said they were either running or running, with the exception of one: Congressman Garret Graves of Baton Rouge.
That has led to intense pressure on him from both supporters and opponents of late, which will only intensify this week, with political insiders in Louisiana fleeing to the nation’s capital for the Washington Mardi Gras.
“Everyone is waiting for Garrett’s decision,” said Richard Lipsey, a Baton Rouge business owner and major Republican fundraiser.
In fact, many people are not sitting still. Instead, they bombarded Graves with pleas because they were frustrated with the early Republican front-runner, Attorney General Jeff Landry, a full supporter of former President Donald Trump.
People close to Graves speculate that he will not ultimately run, and that he would prefer to expand his influence in the House and possibly prepare for a future Senate race. They point out that despite Graves serving as a senior adviser to the government at the time. Bobby Jindal, who has yet to express a strong desire to be governor.
Former Democratic Senator John Breaux, who closely follows Washington, noted that Graves is expected to chair a congressional subcommittee that oversees the airline industry. He also noted that Graves helped win votes for the new Republican speaker, Rep. Kevin McCarthy of California.
“I think the new presidency and his close relationship with the speaker might be an advantage for him not to run,” Breaux said.
But no one seems to know for sure what Graves’ intentions are.
“He had a lot of people reaching out to him,” said Baton Rouge lobbyist Nial Patel, who worked closely with Graves for Jindal and is still with the congressman. close relationship. “Elected officials and voters are blowing up his phone. People are even blowing up my phone.”
Clearly, Graves has a chance of winning this fall.
“There’s a big gap in the moderate lane because the Republicans are less bombastic,” said Baton Rouge pollster John Couvillon.
Couvillon noted that Graves raised huge sums of money when he was first elected to the House of Representatives in 2014, winning a seat in the runoff race among closely contested Republicans and then defeating former Gov. Edwin Edwards, a Democrat. Hereby (Edwin Edwards).
Graves, 50, who has solid conservative credentials, voted for President Joe Biden just 18 percent of the time, compared with 90 percent for then-President Donald Trump, according to the website FiveThirtyEight.
But unlike Landry, Graves shied away from bashing Biden on hot-button cultural issues.
After a group of Trump supporters invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to overturn the election results, Graves voted against electors certifying Biden in one of two states, while other House members from Louisiana Voted out Biden electors in those two states.
Lipsey, who spoke highly of Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, has a clear sense of what he wants Graves to do.
“I’d love to see him come home and run the state,” Lipsey said.
Landry’s top supporters also have strong feelings about the potential Graves nominee.
GOP Chairman Louis Gurwich, who helped orchestrate the party’s unusual early endorsement of Landry in November, laid out those feelings in an open letter last week.
Gurvich called Graves “likable, and he’s an effective voice for conservatives in Congress. More importantly, I think he’ll go a long way in the House.”
But Graves should do his job in Washington because he just won re-election, Gurvich wrote, noting that Republicans hold a four-seat advantage in the House.
Gurvich added that Graves’ candidacy would split the Republican Party, treating the other three declared Republicans as “secondary candidates.” They are Treasury Secretary John Schroeder, State Senator Sharon Hewitt of Slidell and State Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville.
U.S. Senators John F. Kennedy, U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy and Lieutenant Governor Billy Nangesser have all passed the election.
“Garret will be forced to attack Jeff relentlessly for a chance to beat him, but isn’t this a repeat of the same mistakes we made in 2015 and 2019?” Gurwich wrote. “Wouldn’t that turn most Republicans against him?”
Graves’ office did not respond to a request for comment.
Billy Tauzin has particular insight into the choices facing Graves, in part because Graves was Tauzin’s legislative aide when he was MP for Lafourche Parish.
In 1987, Tauzin was persuaded by the then government. Edwin Edwards is running for governor because he doesn’t plan to run for re-election.
Then, Tauzin said Wednesday, Edwards invited the congressman to the governor’s mansion one day and told him he had decided to run again after all.
In retrospect, Tauzin said, he should have dropped out of the race because he and Edwards share a similar political base. But Tauzin said he let his emotions guide his decision and stayed. Tauzin finished fourth in a race eventually won by Buddy Roemer.
“My advice to him is that he make his own decisions based on his career,” Tauzin said. Running for governor “takes you away from the duties of Congress. If you want to win, you really have to have the passion to run He also has to think about his ultimate goal. Is it to elevate the leadership of the House? If he sticks around long enough, he could actually be an orator one day. If his goal is the Senate, that’s another route . There are a lot of things to consider here.”