The Jindal administration’s former point man on coastal restoration announced Wednesday that he’s entering the crowded race to represent Louisiana’s 6th Congressional District in Washington, D.C.
Garret Graves, of Baton Rouge, stepped down as chairman of the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and director of the Governor’s Office of Coastal Activities last week after six years, some of them spent butting heads with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers over levee repairs in New Orleans.
Graves said his decision to run for Congress came out of his frustration over persistent gridlock in the nation’s capital.
“This is one of those situations where you’re yelling at your TV about how dysfunctional it is in Washington, because you finally just say that you’ve had enough and you actually want to do something about it,” Graves said. “My greatest motivator is frustration.”
He added that partisan bickering has become the norm in Congress, while the country is operating under a trade deficit and other nations have started to surpass the U.S. in terms of educational outcomes.
Graves declined to discuss his campaign platform with more than eight months left until this fall’s election. But, he said one of his main focuses, if elected, would be improving government efficiency.
Graves said he’s got a track record of streamlining government from his time at the CPRA, where he cut out repetitive studies, unnecessary spending, and red tape. He said the agency also became more efficient under his watch — protecting more properties than before, “without expanding government and without raising taxes,” he said.
“I understand the federal government is a huge, huge organization, but there is so much inefficiency and nobody is doing anything about,” he said. “It’s infuriating.”
Before joining Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration, Graves worked for U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin and U.S. Sens. David Vitter and John Breaux. He did not say whether he expects to pick up an endorsement from Jindal during this election cycle.
The 6th District seat is up for grabs because the seat holder, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is running for the U.S. Senate in the Nov. 4 election.
Graves will be joined in the race by LaPlace real estate broker Richard Dean Lieberman, who is running as a Democrat, and several Republicans including: small business owner Craig McCulloch; Charles “Trey” Thomas, a Baton Rouge teacher and businessman; Baton Rouge tax lawyer and political newcomer Cassie Felder; tax lawyer and state Sen. Dan Claitor, of Baton Rouge; and Baton Rouge business owner Paul Dietzel II who officially kicked off his candidacy with a fundraiser featuring former GOP presidential hopeful Herman Cain.
Based in south Baton Rouge, the 6th District also includes all or part of East Feliciana, Iberville, Livingston, Pointe Coupee, Lafourche, St. Charles, St. Helena, St. John the Baptist, Terrebonne and West Baton Rouge parishes.