Rep. Ralph Abraham Tiptoes Closer to Louisiana Governor Run

Republican primary might include Sen. John Kennedy too

Democrats have characterized the gubernatorial ambitions of Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-La., as a way to “quit” the House given Republicans will soon be the minority party in the lower chamber. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Louisiana Rep. Ralph Abraham signaled he will likely run for governor next year but stopped short of fully committing to the race.

“If I had to make a decision today, it would be that I was running,” the 5th District Republican said in an interview with the Monroe News Star, pledging to make a final decision by Jan. 1. “The focus always needs to be how Louisiana can be a better place and we just aren’t getting there with the current governor.”

Gov. Jon Bel Edwards won the governor’s mansion against scandal-plagued former Sen. David Vitter and represents the first Democrat to hold statewide office since 2008.

The Republican Governors Association considers the race a top pick-up opportunity.

Abraham and other Republicans in the state are closely watching whether Sen. John Kennedy declares a bid. As a well-known politician who served as a state treasurer under Gov. Bobby Jindal, Kennedy would enter the race as the frontrunner. Kennedy is serving his first term in the Senate after Vitter retired in 2016.

Kennedy has promised to announce his plans Monday. 

“I think we all thought John would have given us an answer by now, but he has to make his own decision,” Abraham said. “His decision won’t have any impact on mine.”

Democrats have already started honing their campaign against Kennedy if he should declare, centering their attacks on his notable and often strange one-liners.

Kennedy has said unemployment numbers were “steadily dropping like a hot potato out of delicate hands” and referred to Medicaid expansion as “a win-win like the Saints winning the Super Bowl during Mardi Gras.”

Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone has already filed paperwork to run in 2019 and has committed to personally investing $5 million in the race.

As Kennedy mulled his decision for weeks, Louisiana Republicans fretted about the possibility of a packed primary field.

“The LAGOP must discourage the thrill-seekers, the resume-builders, the delusional long-shot gamblers, and even otherwise legitimate candidates lacking the financial resources and ability to successfully compete for the intended office,” warned Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich in an editorial prompted by the Dec. 6 race for secretary of state.

During his re-election campaign this cycle Abraham faced criticism that his $4.8 million personal fortune —  including the use of a Cirrus SR 20 private airplane — puts him out of touch with constituents. Still, Abraham carried the conservative 5th District by 37 points over the closest challenger.

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