Major endorsements lining up in governor’s runoff

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

Images courtesy Wikimedia

Two of the strongest forces in Louisiana politics have already taken sides for the Nov. 21 runoff in the governor’s race, with sheriffs coalescing behind state Rep. John Bel Edwards and an influential faction of the oil lobby backing U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

This divvying up of political resources will intensify quickly with just four weeks to go until Louisiana chooses its next governor.

The endorsement given to Vitter, a Republican, by the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association’s political action committee is an early sign that business groups may gravitate toward the senior senator in the coming days.

LOGPAC Chairman Don Briggs said the endorsement will “ensure that (Vitter) receives the necessary support from our industry.”

Edwards, a Democrat, also picked up the support of the Louisiana Sheriffs’ Association less than 48 hours after claiming victory in the primary.

Lincoln Parish Sheriff Mike Stone, LSA’s president, noted Edwards’ West Point education in a press release.

“We feel having John Bel Edwards as our next governor will enhance Louisiana’s image and show the entire country that Louisiana values honesty and integrity in government,” Stone said.

The endorsement from the sheriffs is steeped more in political intrigue than the nod from the LOGA PAC.

Longtime Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Norman’s deputies arrested a private investigator the day before the primary election for allegedly recording a conversation between the sheriff and group having coffee and breakfast in Metairie.

The Vitter campaign has made payments to the Dallas-based investigation firm, but they deny any direct instructions were given to spy on the sheriff. Instead, Vitter supporters contend Normand, who backed Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne for governor in the primary, is trying to turn the issue into a political attack.

Up next for Vitter is possibly more PAC endorsements from other business groups. For example, some of the members of the four PACs controlled by Louisiana Association of Business and Industry would like to get involved in the runoff.

In interviews with PAC members, they said the felt like Edwards’ donors, like unions and trial lawyers, are their “natural enemies.” Depending on if it actually happens, and at what level, it would be one for the books. LABI has only played in three gubernatorial elections in recent memory: Dave Treen; Mike Foster, who actually turned it down after seeking the group’s support; and Bobby Jindal, back when he had re-election in the bag.

LABI President Stephen Waguespack said it would indeed be unusual and that the business organization’s PACs have not yet taken a firm stance. A super-majority vote of all four of the PACs would be needed.

“We’re polling our PAC members now that the primary is over to see if they want to revisit this,” said Waguespack, “and considering the stakes of this election it’s appropriate for us to circle back around to them.”