Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Sources say LABI president poised to enter Louisiana governor’s race

by BIZ Magazine

By Julie O’Donoghue, Louisiana Illuminator

The head of one of Louisiana’s most powerful business groups is expected to enter the governor’s race Thursday, according to a handful of lobbyists and political operatives who spoke on the condition of anonymity Monday night.

Stephen Waguespack, who has run the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) since 2013, started to tell board members of his organization that he’s entering the statewide race Monday night, sources said. The Republican served as Gov. Bobby Jindal’s chief of staff and executive counsel.  Jindal also appointed Waguespack to the Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education after Waguespack left Jindal’s staff. 

Waguespack did not return phone calls or texts made to his cell phone Monday. 

Waguespack’s interest in the governor’s office is a bit of a surprise. In recent weeks, the focus has mainly been on whether U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, would enter the race.

Republican donors unhappy with the current field – and specifically concerned that Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry might win the election – have been pressuring Graves to run. They believe Landry is too much of a hothead and too concerned about partisan issues to be an effective governor. 

If Waguespack is running, it means Graves is not getting in the race. Graves and Waguespack are good friends, and Waguespack wasn’t expected to run if Graves launched a campaign. The two would also be expected to share the same set of large donors.

Graves released a statement Tuesday morning confirming that he would remain in Congress.

Just last week, Waguespack moderated a gubernatorial campaign forum for LABI, where he interviewed the four announced Republican candidates for governor on stage in front of hundreds of people. He gave no public indication he was thinking of running for the same office during the event.

Landry, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Treasurer John Schroder and state Rep. Richard Nelson – all Republicans – have already started campaigning and raising money for governor. Lake Charles attorney Hunter Lundy, a political independent,  and former Transportation Secretary Shawn Wison, a Democrat, have also launched campaigns.

Some of LABI’s prominent financial backers, including Cajun Industries founder Lane Grigsby and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, have also committed to backing Landry for governor.

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