Thursday, April 18, 2024

Landry, Hewitt officially join field for Louisiana governor

by BIZ Magazine

By Wes Muller, Louisiana Illuminator

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt and Attorney General Jeff Landry officially entered the race for Louisiana governor Wednesday, joining a crowded Republican field for the Oct. 14 primary election. 

Landry, a St. Martinville native, is the current Republican front runner, and many polls expect him to win the seat over Democratic opponent and former state transportation secretary Shawn Wilson, who qualified Tuesday. 

Hewitt, a Republican who lives in Slidell, is polling at around 4%.

Hewitt took shots at Landry during her qualifying speech Tuesday, criticizing him for the many lawsuits he has filed against oil and gas companies over coastal zone permit violations that she says are unsubstantiated. She said his office has a “sue first and ask questions later” mentality.

Before holding public office, Hewitt was a groundbreaker for women in Louisiana’s offshore oil and gas industry.  

“He has damaged the most important industry in our state — the energy industry — and pushed high-paying jobs to Texas by siding with the trial lawyers instead of the oil and gas companies in the coastal lawsuits,” Hewitt said. “…They just hauled off and sued everybody because it was more expedient to do so.” 

Landry, who answered only limited questions from reporters Wednesday, said he is proud of his record. 

“Everyone knows who I am,” Landry said. “Y’all have asked me just about every nauseating question known to man, and we intend to put that record out there to the people of this state and win this race.”

So far, a total of 12 candidates have qualified for the race. Democrats include Wilson and Oscar “Omar” Dantzler Jr.. In addition to Hewitt and Landry, Republicans include state Treasurer John Schroder, Alexander “Xan” John, Xavier Ellis and Patrick Henry “Dat” Barthel. Independent candidates include Hunter Lundy, Benjamin Barnes, Frank Scurlock and Jeffrey Istre. 

State Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville and business lobbyist Stephen Waguespack, both Republicans, are expected to qualify on Thursday. 

Political hopefuls have until 4:30 p.m. Thursday to come to the Secretary of State’s offices at the State Archives building to file paperwork to make their candidacy official ahead of the Oct. 14 primary and Nov. 18 general elections, when Louisiana residents will vote for the next governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer and other statewide offices. 

Lieutenant governor

Elbert Guillory, a former state senator from Opelousas, qualified for the lieutenant governor’s race Wednesday, joining three others in the field. 

Guillory, a Republican, will face incumbent Billy Nungesser and Tami Hotard of Madisonville, both Republicans, and no-party candidate Chester Pritchett of Tangipahoa Parish. All three qualified on Tuesday.

Secretary of state

The race for Louisiana’s top elections officials has so far seen six candidates qualify. 

Republican Thomas J. Kennedy III of New Orleans threw his hat into the ring Wednesday. 

Other Republicans who have qualified include Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis of Crowley, House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Ascension Parish, Assistant Secretary of State Nancy Landry and Gonzales grocery store owner Brandon Trosclair.

The lone Democrat vying for the seat is Gwen Collins-Greenup of Baton Rouge.

Attorney general

Solicitor General Liz Murrill and career prosecutor Marty Maley, both Republicans, and New Orleans attorney Lindsey Cheek, a Democrat, qualified for the attorney general’s race Wednesday. 

They join two other candidates who have so far qualified: Republican state Rep. John Stefanski and Democrat Perry Walker Terrebonne, a lawyer from White Castle. 

In her qualifying speech, Murrill said she would use the office to fight crime in Louisiana and touted her experience as solicitor general in assisting hundreds of local investigations and prosecutions across the state. 

“Our investigations unit has statewide authority to investigate crime across the state,” Murrill said. “What we don’t have is the ability to bring those prosecutions independently … We can provide a role in supporting and assisting them.”

A reporter asked Murrill why crime is still high if she already has the authority to investigate local crimes and assist with prosecutions. Murrill blamed it on a lack of resources for local prosecutors and law enforcement agencies.

Murill was also asked why neither she nor her boss, Attorney General Jeff Landry, have assisted in the investigation and prosecution of the five white police officers involved in the 2019 beating death of Black motorist Ronald Greene.

“That case is being prosecuted by a different district attorney, and I don’t believe that it’s in our office, and it’s certainly not in my particular role as solicitor general right now,” she said. “So I couldn’t speak to that.”

Accompanying Cheek to qualify Wednesday was Louisiana Democratic Party executive director Katie Bernhardt, apparently an indication she will have the organization’s backing in the statewide race.

Treasurer

Candidates for state treasurer include Democrat Dustin Granger of Lake Charles and Republicans John Fleming, a former congressman from Minden and state Rep. Scott McKnight of Baton Rouge, all of whom qualified on Tuesday. 

Insurance commissioner

No new candidates have joined the field since Baton Rouge insurance professionals Tim Temple, a Republican, and Rich Weaver, a Democrat, qualified Tuesday.

Agriculture commissioner

Republican incumbent Mike Strain of Covington has yet to draw opposition since qualifying Tuesday.

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