Stephen Waguespack enters the governor’s race, will resign as head of LABI

Stephen Waguespack enters the governor's race, will resign as head of LABI
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Stephen Waguespack told board members of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry on Thursday that he is jumping into the governor’s race, becoming the fifth Republican campaigning this fall to be Louisiana’s next chief executive.

“The stakes are high, time is of the essence and I cannot sit on the sidelines when the future of our state is at stake,” wrote Waguespack, a onetime senior aide to former Gov. Bobby Jindal who has headed LABI for nearly a decade. 

“I am committed to doing everything in my power to help the people of this state have good jobs, quality schools and safe communities. I will work to reduce the inefficiencies that are smothering our small businesses, repair the broken infrastructure putting a choke hold on our economy and restore personal freedoms for families.” 

In the coming weeks, Waguespack must woo wealthy conservative donors to ensure he has the funds to get out his business-oriented message, said Roy Fletcher, a veteran media consultant in Baton Rouge. At the same time, Fletcher added, Waguespack will have to begin raising his profile.

“The people in the state don’t know who he is,” Fletcher said.

Jeff Landry, the Republican attorney general, has raised the most money so far, which is part of why he is perceived to be the early front-runner in the race to replace Gov. John Bel Edwards when his term ends in January.

On Wednesday, Landry announced that two big donors in New Orleans – former shipbuilder Boysie Bollinger and former bank owner Joe Canizaro – are supporting him.

Word of Waguespack’s possible entry first began to spread in political circles on Sunday. On Tuesday, he acknowledged his interest in running.

Besides Waguespack and Landry, the other Republican candidates are Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell and state Rep. Richard Nelson of Mandeville.

Shawn Wilson, who served as Edwards’ transportation secretary for seven years, is the Democrats’ candidate.

Hunter Lundy, a trial attorney and fundamentalist minister, is running as a political independent.

Candidates have until Aug. 10 to qualify for the Oct. 14 primary. The top two finishers, regardless of party, will advance to the Nov. 18 runoff.

In his email to LABI board members, Waguespack noted that he has not held elective office.

“To be sure, I know this campaign will be challenging. I am not a professional politician, I am human and I will make mistakes along the way,” he wrote. “The entrenched status quo may try to smear me and distract voters from the true issues that face our families…. Make no mistake, my resolve is strong, my conscience is clear and my heart is proud to be in this race.”

Waguespack represents a different Republican brand than Landry, who has been a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump. Landry misses no opportunity to tap into conservative grievances about issues such as how transgender youth are treated in school and library books for LGBTQ teenagers.

Waguespack, who is well-liked personally by Republicans and Democrats, has pushed for legislators to lower taxes and lighten regulations on business, and to make it harder for individuals injured in accidents to sue those they believe are responsible. Waguespack has argued that a too-permissive legal environment has discouraged investment and job creation by businesses fearful of potential lawsuits and financial penalties.

Waguespack spelled out his philosophy in a radio interview two years ago just after a conservative lawmaker caused a flap by offhandedly mentioning the “good” of slavery.

“I’m a Republican and a conservative but that’s because I believe in free markets and conservative principles like choice for people to make the best decisions for their family, not because of these fringe issues like frickin’ slavery,” Waguespack said on the Brian Haldane talk radio show in Baton Rouge.

Waguespack went on to praise House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, and his leadership team “because they don’t stand around on an island and just throw bombs and sit in little bunkers. They get their hands dirty. They try to bring sides together. They try to find a balance and compromise.”

Beginning in 2008, Waguespack, 49, served as Jindal’s executive counsel, as his deputy chief of staff and finally as his chief of staff.

Waguespack left the governor’s office in 2012, and was chosen to be LABI’s chief a year later. In that role, he promotes the group’s agenda at the state Capitol and before business-friendly organizations around the state. He also recruits and helps raise money for like-minded legislative candidates.

Waguespack seriously considered challenging Edwards in 2019 but passed on the race, telling friends that he wasn’t ready for the financial sacrifice of resigning from his job at LABI. It paid $525,000 in salary and other compensation, according to LABI’s 2018 tax form 990, the latest one available publicly.

Waguespack will face attacks from his close association with Jindal.

Trey Ourso with Gumbo PAC, which spent heavily on TV ads and mailers to support Edwards in his 2015 and 2019 races, has already tweeted out several articles about the massive budget problems that developed in Louisiana under Jindal.

“The architect behind how @BobbyJindal took a $1 billion surplus and turned it into a $3 billion deficit declares for Governor,” tweeted Stephen Handwerk, who served as executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party when Jindal was in office.

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About Mary Weyand 14484 Articles
Mary founded Scoop Tour with an aim to bring relevant and unaltered news to the general public with a specific view point for each story catered by the team. She is a proficient journalist who holds a reputable portfolio with proficiency in content analysis and research. With ample knowledge about the Automobile industry, she also contributes her knowledge for the Automobile section of the website.

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