BATON ROUGE – Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and Gov. John Bel Edwards have been causing headlines in the Capitol on several issues ranging from budgets and lawsuits to gay rights and immigration policing.
The highest-profile elected Republican in the state, Landry has emerged as Edwards’ most formidable political foe with the Louisiana Republican Party getting behind him to push a conservative agenda.
Recently, he was successful at gaining more control over his agency’s finances in the House version of the budget, but the bill was shot down in the Senate. He also made a push for a bill to crack down on illegal immigration, but wasn’t successful.
Edward Chervenak, director of the UNO Survey Research Center at the University of New Orleans, told the Louisiana Record that he believes Landry is seeking to undermine the Democratic governor’s authority.
“This comes right out of the Washington D.C. playbook,” Chervenak said. “Republicans there have made it their mission to delegitimize the Democratic president through the birther movement, or by statements from Republican legislative leaders that their main goal was to make Obama a one-term president.”
According to Chervenak, the same thing is happening in Louisiana.
“Look no further than the action by Republicans in the state legislature to try and remove the office of the attorney general from the main budget bill and allow it to have its own separate appropriations bill,” Chervenak said. “That can only be interpreted as a partisan effort to undermine the governor’s authority.”
Political insiders have been speculating that Landry is increasingly positioning himself to run against Edwards in the 2019 governor’s race; however, Landry has denied this.
“You have to take Landry at his word at this time,” Chervenak said. “However, four years is a lifetime in politics and so there will be plenty of time for him to change his mind, particularly if he believes that circumstances have changed.”
It's significant that the Louisiana Senate rejected an attempt by Landry to break his budget into a separate bill to give him more control.
Chervenak claims, though, that the attorney general lacks the allies he needs to get his way.
“The state senate did away with the idea of separating out the attorney general’s budget from the overall executive, so he appears to lack allies there,” he said. “Nor did Landry get his way with defunding the Inspector General’s office.”
That said, he appears to be emerging as the face of Republican opposition to the governor, Chervenak added.
“As a tea party Republican who is willing to publicly challenge the Democratic governor, that will most likely strike a chord among Republicans in the state," he said.