APNewsBreak: David Vitter to run for La. governor

U.S. Sen. David Vitter

MELINDA DESLATTE, Associated Press

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be a candidate in Louisiana’s 2015 governor’s race, announcing his decision Tuesday in an email to supporters and immediately becoming the front-runner for the election.
“I believe that as our next Governor, I can have a bigger impact addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana,” the senator said in an email obtained by The Associated Press from a member of Vitter’s staff.
Vitter’s announcement ends months of speculation about his intentions, and his decision is expected to influ-ence which other potential candidates enter the race.
Gov. Bobby Jindal is term-limited, so the race is wide open. Vitter can run without forfeiting his current position in the U.S. Senate, which isn’t up for re-election until 2016.
If he becomes governor, Vitter said he’ll push for excellence in education, budget stability, tax and spending reform and government accountability.
“This will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period. So my only agenda will be to do what’s best for all Louisianians, from our best and brightest to our most vulnerable,” he said in the email and an accompanying web video posted on his new campaign website.
Others who have said they will run for governor include: Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and state Rep. John Bel Edwards, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. State GOP Treasurer John Kennedy also has said he is considering entering the race.
Pearson Cross, head of the Department of Politics, Law and International Relations at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette said Vitter “poses a major problem for the other Republican contenders in this race.”
“David Vitter has incredi-ble name recognition and just won his last statewide election with nearly 60 percent of the vote,” Cross said.
Vitter’s approval ratings are high in Louisiana, and his ability to rake in cam-paign donations is strong. Already, the leader of a pro-Vitter super PAC said the organization has raised $1.5 million to support a gubernatorial run for the senator.
Several polls taken before Vitter’s announcement showed the senator as the front-runner in the guberna-torial race if he chose to run.
“Although an active cam-paign is still a year away, I’ll start preparing for it imme-diately by doing what I’ve always done, including as our U.S. Senator. That’s listening to you, knowing that I sure don’t have all the answers,” Vitter says to supporters in his email.
He has proved to be a resilient politician, holding elected office for more than two decades as a state and federal lawmaker and easily winning re-election to a second U.S. Senate term in 2010, despite ties to a prostitution scandal.
Vitter admitted to a “seri-ous sin” after phone records linked him to Washington’s “D.C. Madam” prostitution case in 2007. He hasn’t commented further on whether he broke the law, instead saying his family had forgiven him and moved past it.
Voters don’t appear to hold the scandal against Vitter, with more than 58 percent giving him good marks in a recent Southern Media and Opinion Research poll about his job performance.
“I think he’s far enough removed from that. Eight years is an eternity in voters’ minds,” Cross said of the scandal.

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