Saturday, April 13, 2024

Waguespack and Nelson officially join field for Louisiana governor 

by BIZ Magazine

By Piper Hutchinson, Louisiana Illuminator

With the entrance of the last two expected candidates for governor Thursday, Louisiana’s Oct. 14 primary election shapes up to be a showdown with frontrunner Jeff Landry, a field of Republican challengers who hope to jump him in the polls and Democrat Shawn Wilson.

Trailing closest behind Landry is Stephen Waguespack, a well-funded Republican who formerly served as chief of staff and executive counsel to former Gov. Bobby Jindal. He most recently was chief lobbyist for the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry. 

Waguespack made his official foray into the race Thursday, as did state Rep. Richard Nelson, a longshot Republican from Mandeville who trails the rest of the field in polls. 

They joined Treasurer John Schroder, a Republican from Covington, Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell, wealthy Independent attorney Hunter Lundy from Lake Charles and Wilson, a Democrat from Lafayette and former state transportation secretary, who all qualified to run for earlier in the week 

Waguespack accused Landry’s campaign of intimidating his supporters.

A supporter of Landry also called the Waguespack campaign twice to say they would spend $1 million per week to go after his reputation if he doesn’t drop out, Waguespack told reporters Thursday.

Waguespack said he and his wife prayed on it but ultimately decided to stay in the race. 

“When you get a call like that, it made me want to dig my heels in,” Waguespack said. “It made my resolve that much stronger.” 

While Waguespack said he was proud of the work he did in the Jindal administration, he pointed out he left the office early in Jindal’s second term when Jindal began to turn his eye to the 2016 presidential race. 

“Early in the second time around, that administration shifted focus to the national one for the presidency,” Waguespack said. “I had no interest in that. That’s not why we moved from D.C.. The last thing I wanted to do was come home to go on a presidential campaign to get back to D.C.. I came home to fix Louisiana.” 

Nelson arrived late Thursday morning at the State Archives, where qualifying is held, after his car broke down on the way over, which Nelson attributed to all the miles he’s put on his vehicle on the campaign trail. 

While other candidates used their post-qualifying press conference to take a swipe at Landry, Nelson declined to go on offense. 

Nelson said he’s not running against the other Republicans in the race, but rather against former Gov. Huey P. Long, who’s complete control of Louisiana politics in the early 20th century Nelson credits with the current state of Louisiana politics. 

“Huey Long really set this up,” Nelson said. “He set the system we have in place up, and that’s why I’m running against him because that’s really what’s holding the state back.” 

After Nelson’s comments, his 7-year-old son, Arthur, took the microphone to defend his father’s comparatively low fundraising figures. 

“Did John Bel Edwards get elected because he had a bunch of money? No! He got elected because he was going to change the state well,” the younger Nelson told reporters.

Gary Rispone, brother of failed 2019 gubernatorial candidate Eddie Rispone, also qualified to run for lieutenant governor late Thursday afternoon.

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