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Attorney General Race Causing Republican Rift

Louisiana Republicans may be united in a lot of things: gun rights, conservative fiscal policy, dislike of President Obama. But they’re no longer unified in their choice for state Attorney General.

“We voted to endorse Buddy Caldwell for re-election,” Woody Jenkins, chairman of the East Baton Rouge Parish Republican Party, announced Tuesday.

That conflicts with the endorsement the state GOP made last month.

“Jeff is the Republican in the race,” LA GOP chairman Roger Villere said, when announcing the endorsement of former congressman Jeff Landry in late July.

Jenkins, acknowledges some in the state party may view Caldwell – who switched parties in 2011-- as a “RINO”, a Republican-in-name-only. The Baton Rouge GOP doesn’t see it that way.

“Perhaps some people still hold that against him, that he’d been a Democrat. But from a conservative standpoint, we think he’s really impeccable,” Jenkins said.

Jenkins, who was a Democrat when he served in the state Legislature from 1972-1980, says the GOP State Central Committee takes a “handshake deal” approach to endorsements.

“If members of the State Committee sign a petition, they will endorse a candidate without hearing from both sides,” Jenkins explained, adding that Baton Rouge party members actually vetted both candidates.

“We just try to take a little broader approach and look at who’s actually the best qualified. We interview the candidates. We have a very detailed questionnaire. We have them come and appear and answer questions.”

And, Jenkins said, the incumbent has proven experience.

“Caldwell has 29 years’ experience as a district attorney, 8 years’ experience as Attorney General, and then a solid record in their court decisions.”

Jeff Landry has a law degree from Loyola. But as Buddy Caldwell noted in his response to the state party’s endorsement of Landry, “He has never tried a civil or criminal case in court.”