Louisiana Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, a popular GOP figure in the Pelican State, confirmed he's "pondering" a run against three-term Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu.
Long thought to be a likely contender for governor, Dardenne told CQ Roll Call that recent polling had him mulling the Senate race — one of the national GOP's top targets in 2014.
“You can’t help but ponder it when you see some numbers like that and it gets people talking and wanting to know what you may be interested in doing,” he said in a Friday morning phone interview. “I guess ‘pondering’ is the best word — at least for right now.”
Dardenne trailed Landrieu by only a few points, 43 percent to 46 percent, in a recent hypothetical horse-race matchup from the automated Democratic survey firm Public Policy Polling.
Dardenne is a former state senator and secretary of state. He has sought and won four statewide races since 2006. In PPP's automated poll from February, 41 percent of respondents said they had a favorable opinion of Dardenne, while 23 percent had an unfavorable view of him. Thirty-five percent weren’t sure.
Dardenne, who served in the state Senate for 15 years, said he loved his time as a legislator, adding, "I miss the policy and I miss the debate."
“I really did enjoy the legislature. I enjoyed it when I was in the minority, and I enjoyed it when I was in a position of leadership,” he said. “That’s one of the reasons why you never completely close the door on being in a legislative body.”
In his current role, Dardenne serves as the head of the Louisiana Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, making him the chief promoter of travel to the state. During the interview, Dardenne repeatedly encouraged travel to Louisiana, noting that the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival begins next month.
Pelican State politicos said they believe he's been interested in the gubernatorial race for a long time.
"Dardenne's had his sights set on running for governor since he was president of LSU,” said John Maginnis, a longtime Louisiana nonpartisan political analyst, referring to Louisiana State University.
Still, Maginnis added, Dardenne "could probably make the best Republican candidate against Mary Landrieu.”
Other potential Republican candidates for Senate include Reps. Charles Boustany Jr., John Fleming and Bill Cassidy, as well as former Rep. Jeff Landry.