BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said Wednesday that he won't challenge Gov. John Bel Edwards in next year's governor's race, choosing instead to run for re-election as the state's chief legal officer after significantly raising the profile of the job.
The Republican attorney general ended speculation about his 2019 election plans in an interview with The Associated Press, saying he'll seek a second term in his current role and removing his name from the list of possible GOP contenders against the Democratic governor.
"There's just so much more that I would like to do. And I feel like the staff, I owe them and the people of Louisiana an opportunity to finish the job," Landry said in a phone interview. He added: "It was a tough, tough decision. I am very comfortable right now that I can best serve the people of the state as attorney general."
Landry's publicly feuded with Edwards since the two men took office in 2016, raising the possibility of entering the governor's race himself unless a viable Republican challenger emerged. Since then, wealthy Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone announced his entrance into the governor's race, while U.S. Sen. John Kennedy said he'll decide whether to join Rispone in the competition by Dec. 1. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham is among the other Republicans eyeing the race.
No candidate has come forward so far to announce a campaign against Landry for attorney general, suggesting the outspoken, Cajun-accented official was safer politically by seeking re-election to his current job than entering the crowded fray for governor.
Landry didn't say which Republican he'll support against Edwards. He said he decided to run again for attorney general because of the position's importance in the state. During his tenure, Landry said, the office has worked to combat Medicaid fraud, target opioid abuse, advocate for crime victims and protect consumers.
"Another four years gives us another opportunity to really cement the Department of Justice's reputation and perception with the average citizen, just bringing it to a whole new level," Landry said. "I think over the last three years a lot more people know what the attorney general does."
He's leveraged the attorney general's position to become one of Louisiana's most prominent GOP elected officials since winning the office in 2015, defeating a fellow Republican, two-term incumbent Buddy Caldwell.
On the national scene, Landry is president of the National Association of Attorneys General, he's been heavily involved in the Republican Attorneys General Association, he's touted visits with President Donald Trump and he's waded into legal issues in other states and in Washington.
Back home, Landry's strengthened his position as one of the main standard-bearers for Republican Party politics in Louisiana, by taking leadership of a PAC started by former U.S. Sen. David Vitter that is aimed at electing more GOP conservatives to state legislative offices.
He's formed close alliances with a group of conservative House GOP lawmakers. And he's sparred repeatedly with Edwards over finances, LGBT rights, health care, criminal justice, the death penalty and the broad parameters of their offices' constitutional authority.
A lawyer and businessman from St. Martin Parish, Landry first drew statewide political attention as a congressman. He was in the U.S. House for one term and quickly became a tea party favorite. But he lost his re-election bid in 2012 when he was forced into the same district as another GOP incumbent, after Louisiana lost a House seat because of stagnant population.
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Posted on Thu, November 15, 2018
by By MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press