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As gubernatorial race heats up, here come the ads: Landry on education, Waguespack makes ‘outsider’ argument

The Louisiana State Capitol. March 2021.
Phoebe Jones
The Louisiana State Capitol. March 2021.

For his latest ad, released Tuesday, Louisiana’s leading candidate for governor stands in a nondescript classroom. There’s a white board on the wall and behind his left shoulder, an American flag.

“My mother was a school teacher,” says Attorney General Jeff Landry in the 30-second video. “She believed in teaching kids how to think, not what to think.”

But he argues that’s changed.

“Today, too many classrooms are filled with woke politics instead of teaching,” he says. “We’re gonna fix that.”

Landry is the latest conservative politician to make education a core campaign issue, mainly as a lightning rod in the culture war. The word “woke” frequently serves as a catch-all for policies conservatives oppose, especially those on the progressive side of the political spectrum.

He says his plan is to get “back to the basics” by focusing on reading, writing and math, and that parents, not politicians, deserve control.

Those things aren’t controversial on their own, but the policies that come with them often are: restrictions on what teachers can say about race and gender, and allowing families who send their kids to private school to pay for it with public dollars.

The ad alludes to a series of conservative political goals Landry supported in the last legislative session that targeted LGBTQ+ youth and discussions of race in the classroom.

Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed some of those laws and Landry’s ad appears to say if elected, he’d back the Republican-dominated legislature.

Landry is former President Donald Trump’s pick for governor. He’s had the endorsement of the Republican Party of Louisiana since November and has a major fundraising lead over the race’s other candidates.

Stephen Waguespack, another Republican candidate and former CEO of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), released his first two TV ads this week where he attempts to paint himself as an outsider of Louisiana politics.

“I’m running for governor because the insiders have had their chance,” Waguespack says in the first ad. “It’s time for an outsider who can get the job done.”

While Waguespack has never run for office before, he’s not an outsider to Louisiana politics. He served as the chief of staff for nearly five years under former Gov. Bobby Jindal. And through his role as the head of LABI for the past 10 years, Waguespack has lobbied at the state Capitol for business-friendly legislation.

The ads also highlight what Waguespack says is his commitment to fight political corruption and boost the state’s economy. In the second ad, Waguespack says he plans to create jobs by cutting taxes and regulations, improving education, training Louisianans for jobs at home and tackling the insurance crisis.

Aubri Juhasz is the education reporter for New Orleans Public Radio. Before coming to New Orleans, she was a producer for National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She helped lead the show's technology and book coverage and reported her own feature stories, including the surge in cycling deaths in New York City and the decision by some states to offer competitive video gaming to high school students as an extracurricular activity.
Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.