According to Vitter, “I believe that as our next Governor, I can have a bigger impact addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana.”
Throughout his career, Vitter has made no secret of his interest in state government. His political career started as a Metairie State Representative. Since that time, he has been elected to Congress and the U.S. Senate, each time prevailing over his opponents. In the Governor’s race, Vitter will bring a sizable fundraising machine and political operation to the campaign.
The position is open because Governor Bobby Jindal is term limited. Usually, an open gubernatorial seat will attract a large field of candidates, but Vitter may serve to limit the size of the race. Already, State Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain announced he will not run for Governor.
The next question is whether popular State Treasurer John Kennedy will run for Governor. Kennedy has $3 million in his campaign war chest, but lost to Vitter in the 2004 U.S. Senate race. Kennedy also lost the 2008 U.S. Senate race against Mary Landrieu. In recent years Kennedy has been a regular presence on talk radio proposing a number of reform oriented measures aimed at improving the operation of state government.
Although he has a large war chest, Kennedy may choose not to run for Governor and opt for the possibility that a victorious Vitter will appoint him to the U.S. Senate. However, Congressman John Fleming also hopes that Vitter will appoint him to the Senate position.
At this point, Vitter’s most formidable opponent appears to be Republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne. Democratic State Representative John Bel Edwards has announced his intention to run for Governor, he will is relatively unknown statewide at this point.
Dardenne is also an impressive politician with a lengthy track record of political success. He is a former Baton Rouge State Senator, who has won multiple statewide elections as Secretary of State and Lt. Governor. He is considered to be more moderate than Vitter, but he has the advantage of not having any political scandals in his past.
Vitter’s biggest obstacle remains his ties to a prostitution scandal. Phone records linked Vitter to the D.C. Madam. He has also been accused by New Orleans area prostitutes, the former Canal Street Madam Jeanette Maier and Wendy Cortez of utilizing their paid services. Vitter has denied “those New Orleans stories,” but has never offered a full explanation of his involvement with potential illegal activity. The Senator has focused on the fact that his family has forgiven him for such a “serious sin.”
While Vitter has been victorious in his previous campaigns, a statewide race for Governor is quite different. National issues are not as prominent. In the last election, Vitter was helped by the national issues, such as Obamacare. He was also able to succeed due to the poor campaign of his opponent, then Congressman Charlie Melancon.
Unlike Melancon, Dardenne is a much more serious opponent and has years of political experience and success. Others like New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu may enter the race, but at this point, unless Kennedy makes it official, it looks like a two man race for the state’s top job.