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Will Sen. Cassidy join Louisiana’s 2023 governor’s race? Decision coming this week

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U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy

With the 2022 midterms in the rearview, the field for Louisiana’s 2023 governor’s race is beginning to take shape.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy told reporters Tuesday that he has made a decision about the race and he will announce it publicly later this week. The statement comes one day after his Senate colleague John Kennedy said he is “seriously considering” mounting his own gubernatorial bid and released his own polling data showing that he would be an early favorite in the race.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited in 2023, and the race for his open seat is expected to attract a long list of high-profile GOP candidates.

Attorney General Jeff Landry is the only Republican who has officially declared his candidacy. Landry won the endorsement of the Louisiana Republican Party earlier this month — a move some party figures criticized as premature.

Since winning a second Senate term in 2020, Cassidy has made a series of moves that could make his potential candidacy appealing to independent voters and Democrats. He was one of only six Senate Republicans who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Months later, he was part of a small group of Republican Senators who brokered the final deal for Pres. Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure and Investment Act.

Cassidy drew criticism from Republicans for supporting the $1.2 spending package, but Cassidy said his involvement in crafting the final language of the bill positioned Louisiana to receive a greater share of the federal dollars included within.

The move prompted speculation that Cassidy was positioning himself as a moderate Republican candidate in the 2023 governor’s race and an alternative to the hardline conservatism of other likely candidates like Attorney General Jeff Landry and Kennedy.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is term-limited in 2023 and at this time there is no clear standard-bearer for the Democratic party. Louisiana’s open or “jungle” primary system pits all comers in a single primary — an advantage for moderate candidates with bipartisan appeal.

On a Sunday appearance on Meet the Press, Cassidy blamed the GOP’s close alignment with former President Donald Trump for the party’s failure to regain control of the Senate. However, Cassidy stopped short of saying he would vote against Trump should he run for the presidency in 2024.

Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who has worked harmoniously with the Democratic Edwards, has positioned himself similarly. Nungesser has privately discussed running in 2023 and is marshaling support among a small group of donors and GOP figures but he has not officially declared his candidacy.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.