Louisiana’s gubernatorial race goes national

by Jeremy Alford, LaPolitics

The state’s political scene is being watched closely as state Rep. John Bel Edwards and U.S. Sen. David Vitter move ever closer to a Nov. 21 runoff. And as has become the norm with our most high-profile races, many of those watchers are from outside Louisiana. Now that there are only two men standing, you can expect the trend to increase.

The national Democratic Governor’s Association has teamed up with the anti-Vitter GUMBO PAC on the soft money side and will be coordinating for independent expenditures in the race. GUMBO PAC has already put $900,000 into a TV buy for a spot attacking Vitter with clips from primary opponents Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. The Republican Governor’s Association has also already launched its first runoff ad targeting Edwards, as part of a commercial flight it bought into during the last week of the primary.

The national political press is watching the contest closely as well. In moving the governor’s race to the “toss up” column, Cook Political Report reported recently that the Edwards-Vitter runoff is no simple formality, adding Vitter has “vulnerabilities that... carry more weight... than we would have anticipated.”

In the past few days alone, the campaigns and candidates have been included in stories in The Washington Post, National Journal, Chicago Tribune, The Hill and other publications.

Groups that play heavily in Washington and in national races are being drawn in more publicly after months of quiet participation. The Democratic-leaning American Bridge has a tracker following around Vitter with a video camera and recently posted footage to YouTube. The GOP-leaning America Rising PAC has likewise unleashed a tracker on Vitter’s opponents and recently released an issues paper on Edwards, but no video content yet aside from brief clips used in TV spots.

To debate or not to debate?

There are a few efforts underway for televised debates in the governor’s race and at least one is ready for prime time.

WVLA/Nexstar Broadcasting is putting together an unscripted gathering for Nov. 16 in Baton Rouge. Edwards and Vitter have both confirmed.

No word yet on whether Vitter will also agree to the planned Louisiana Public Broadcasting debate slated for Nov. 10. Edwards has said he is ready to take the stage.

The campaigns say they have also received invitations from WAFB/Raycom Media but are still working out the details. An Edwards spokesperson said they’re willing to commit to more but are waiting to see how involved the Vitter camp is willing to be.

Vitter recently told Gannett’s Louisiana politics reporter Greg Hilburn, “I look forward to debating. It’s a great way to contrast our visions.”

For more Louisiana political news, visit or follow Jeremy Alford on Twitter @LaPoliticsNow.