PACs begin airing attack ads hoping to influence Louisiana governor’s race

Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 11:26 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Two political action committees have launched dueling attack ads in hopes of influencing voters in this fall’s Louisiana governor race.

Protect Louisiana’s Children LLC -- a PAC supporting Attorney General Jeff Landry’s bid for governor -- began last weekend airing a spot attacking Stephen Waguespack, the former head of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and a Landry Republican rival.

The ad’s narrator says, “When Stephen Waguespack was Bobby Jindal’s top aide, Louisiana’s economy sank from sixth to 42nd. Under Waguespack, 13,000 manufacturing jobs disappeared. Essential state programs faced severe cuts. And one-in-five Louisianans was left in poverty. Then, Waguespack backed Biden’s $2 trillion spending bill, creating record inflation and record debt.”

“What’s said in the ad is nothing but a package of blatant lies, to be honest with you,” Waguespack told Fox 8 on Monday. “The main thing is, it says that I supported federal spending that has driven up inflation. Nothing could be further from the truth.”

He said the ad did not come as a surprise.

“I’m an outsider running for governor. I’m not a career politician,” he said. “I think what’s becoming painfully clear is that the career politicians that have run Baton Rouge -- the good ol’ boys’ network that’s run Baton Rouge forever -- they’re getting nervous about our campaign. And so they’re starting to throw some mud and some slander our way.

“Do I like it? No. Do we expect it? Yes.”

Last week, Reboot Louisiana -- a PAC backing Waguespack -- slammed Landry’s crimefighting credentials.

In that ad, the announcer says, “As Louisiana’s top law enforcement official, Jeff Landry has failed us. Murder, rape, carjackings. Under Jeff Landry, Louisiana is now the most dangerous state in America. Stephen Waguespack has a plan to take Louisiana back from the criminals.”

Landry told Fox 8 last week, “Look, I really don’t have a response to people who are out there and want to engage in that type of politicking. And I think the citizens of this state really want to see a governor’s race about issues that they care deeply about.”

Jason Hebert, chairperson of the PAC running the ad against Waguespack defended it.

“Protect Louisiana’s Children, LLC, is an independent expenditure supporting the candidacy of Jeff Landry for governor,” Hebert said in a statement. “Team Waguespack recently decided to launch a false and unprovoked attack ad against Jeff Landry. It reeks of desperation and shows they’ve run out of positive things to say about Stephen after one ad. Therefore, we were left to respond in kind with an ad of our own, to set the record straight and inform the electorate about the disastrous record of Stephen Waguespack.”

Waguespack said he intends to make crime a central focus of the governor’s race.

“When you go around the state to talk to voters, one the biggest issues you hear about is crime,” he said. “And what that ad -- when I saw it -- spoke to is the issue of crime. Why is crime spiraling out of control in Louisiana?And what has the chief law enforcement officer of this state done to control that?

“We have a mental health crisis across this state, and leading to a lot of juvenile offenders who are creating a lot of these crimes. When you talk to law enforcement, there’s not the facilities to bring these children, these juvenile offenders to. That’s got to change. We’re a couple hundred troopers down at the State Police level. That’s got to change.”

Dillard University political analyst Dr. Robert Collins said it has been shown that political action committees can be impactful.

“This is sort of the beginning of a PAC war,” Collins said. “We saw in the last (Orleans Parish) sheriff’s race, soft money from political action committees tipped the race. We saw in the Public Service Commission race, soft money from PACs tipped the outcome of the race. So now these PACs realize that they can be very effective.”

Collins said he expects much more PAC activity between now and the Oct. 14 primary, and the Nov. 18 general election.

“These PAC organizations are going to form, supporting their candidate, and they’re going to run ads both in favor of their candidates but primarily they are going to run negative ads attacking the candidates that they feel are a threat to the candidates that they support,” he said.

Republicans John Schroder, Sharon Hewitt and Richard Nelson also are in the race, along with Democrat Shawn Wilson and Independent Hunter Lundy. Official qualifying for the race begins in August.

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