Technically no one has announced to run for the governor of Louisiana in 2023. There have been more than a few strong hints and countless winks and nods, but no images of politicians standing before adoring audiences saying, “I’m a candidate for governor!”
The lack of announced candidates is odd. By this time during the last open race for governor, in the spring of 2014, three of the four leading contenders for governor had already declared their intentions. Maybe that’s why the past couple of weeks have been jam-packed with speculation about who might run.
lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is among those expected to qualify for the governor next year, which will in turn create a vacancy in his current office. Should that happen, quite a few politicos will be interested in the job.
Lieutenant governor is the second-highest elected state position. Individuals who held the office in the past used it as a stepping stone to governor — either through good politics or the constitutional line of succession.
The state’s number two elected official also oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Put another way, the lieutenant governor is Louisiana’s chief marketer. In terms of political jobs, it’s a pretty good one.
The 2023 contest should be entertaining, if nothing else. A colorful cast of characters is already flirting with the developing race, which is beginning to sound like a dream-come-true for reporters.
Many folks already know House Speaker Clay Schexnayder of Gonzales intends to run. It’s an interesting move for Schexnayder to want to be the state’s chief marketer. A mechanic and former race car driver, Schexnayder has openly discussed his dislike for the media, press conferences and public speaking.
A Republican, Schexnayder will be in an enviable position leading up to the primary vote. His ability to generate earned media will be unparalleled in the race and he is already working the right side of the electorate.
Schexnayder has spent the last few weeks meeting with pastors and other influencers from around the state. He will also be able to campaign on the fact that he appointed more Republican chairmen in the House than anyone else in modern history. All he has to do now is learn to love public speaking.
Others looking at the race, meanwhile, won’t shy away from microphones.
The newest name to add to the fray belongs to Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle, who was re-elected without opposition as a Democrat in 2020. Political insiders know Camardelle well — he’s down on the island when politicos travel south for fishing rodeos and you can ‘t miss his gorilla costume during Washington Mardi Gras.
Politicos in the region recognizes his unique guerrilla marketing skills, and his ability to stand strong against everything from oil spills to hurricanes. Camardelle said that’s why folks are urging him to run for lieutenant governor. “I’m getting calls from other parts of the state, too,” Camardelle said. “Right now I’m focused on getting this island in good shape. But you never know.”
For his part, former state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas is already out and about campaigning for lieutenant governor. The Republican was at an event hosted by the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry recently handing out business cards that declared “Louisiana Needs a Paw Paw” — bringing back the days when our politicians were known as Uncle Earl and Coozan Dud.
Yet Paw Paw Elbert has something his potential competitors do not. He has a federal campaign account called “Elbert Guillory’s America,” which raised and spent an eye-opening $3 million from January of last year through this past February. Today, the account is holding about $683,000 in cash.
Asked if he would be willing to transfer any of that cash to a supportive political action committee on the state level, Guillory said, “No way. That money has been designated for other purposes. Not for my race.”
In comparison, Guillory’s state campaign finance account is holding about $3,000, but he clearly has the ability to raise some serious dough on the national level. Schexnayder, not surprisingly, has nearly $355,000 and will be able to super-charge that tally with ease. Camardelle, who seems to be leaning more toward re-election on the island, has roughly $10,000 in the bank.
More potential candidates may surface in the coming months, but for now the speculation paints a portrait of a race worth tuning into next year.