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Did Jeff Landry just launch his bid for Louisiana governor at a gator hunt?

Jeff Landry _19th_071822.jpg
Paul Braun
/
WRKF
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (left) addresses the media after a court hearing on the state's abortion "trigger laws" while Solicitor General Liz Murrill and attorney John Balhoff look on. July 18, 2022.

Louisiana politicos are still awaiting Attorney General Jeff Landry’s official entrance into the 2023 governor’s race, but nothing says “I’m running for office” like slapping a campaign logo on hats and t-shirts.

That’s exactly what the would-be candidate did at his annual alligator hunt fundraiser, giving attendees hats and t-shirts emblazoned with a “Team Landry Governor” logo this week.

Landry’s gubernatorial aspirations have been the worst kept secret in Louisiana politics. While he has not formally announced his candidacy, the Republican has long been thought of as one of the highest profile state officials seeking to replace the term-limited John Bel Edwards in 2023.

The Acadiana Republican was widely expected to oppose Edwards’ reelection in 2019, but opted out instead of facing the well-funded incumbent.

In the years since, Landry has dropped hints and worked to raise his name recognition with Louisiana voters by championing the state’s controversial abortion ban and joining high-profile lawsuits that challenged Edwards and Biden administration policies.

He was conspicuously quiet when his top aide, state Solicitor General Liz Murrill, launched her campaign for attorney general earlier this year. Murrill has said that she will only seek the position if Landry decides not to run for reelection. She has continued to actively campaign for the position.

But the clearest indication of Landry’s interest in the governor's race came at his high-dollar alligator hunt fundraiser in St. Martinville, where attendees pay between $1,000 and $50,000 to join the hunt and rub elbows with conservative figures like Donald Trump Jr. and his fiancée Kimberly Guilfoyle, also a former advisor to President Donald Trump.

Funds from the event are split between Landry’s official campaign fund, Landry for Louisiana and Cajun PAC II, the political action committee Landry runs with his brother Benjamin Landry.

The lengthy disclosure on the event website tells potential donors that “The first $5,000 shall be allocated to LANDRY FOR LOUISIANA, for the 2023 Primary Election. The next $100,000 shall be allocated to CAJUN PAC II.”

Landry’s campaign spokesperson didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Landry’s 2021 fundraising summary — the last formal campaign finance report on record — showed that he had a little more than $3 million on hand. As of last month, his political action committee had an additional $1.6 million in the bank.

The field for the 2023 governor’s race is far from set. No one has officially declared their candidacy, but State Treasurer John Schroder and Lt. Governor Billy Nungesser each told supporters earlier this year that they intend to run.

Several other Republicans have expressed interest in the race, including U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy and Rep. Garret Graves, who have said they will make a decision by the end of the year.

Democratic activist Gary Chambers, who is currently running to unseat U.S. Sen. John Kennedy this fall, has expressed interest in the race.

Paul Braun is WRKF's Capitol Access reporter.