WASHINGTON — Sen. David Vitter emailed supporters that he would soon decide whether to run for governor in 2015, but Louisiana Democrats are already targeting him.
The Louisiana Democratic Party unveiled its new VitterforGovernor.com website Wednesday intended to highlight how Vitter, a Republican, has campaigned throughout much of the year for office, including fundraising events ranging from alligator hunts to a Justin Bieber concert.
“Maybe there are still one or two voters in Louisiana honestly musing whether David Vitter is looking to move on from the Senate,” Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk said in the announcement. “However, we have always suspected Vitter had his eyes on the governor’s mansion, which is why we helpfully went out and secured a website URL for him.”
Gov. Bobby Jindal faces term limits, and speculation has persisted for some time that Vitter was strongly considering a run for governor. Vitter said Tuesday he plans to decide in January and, on Wednesday, Vitter sent out an email to supporters that he titled “An Important Decision.”
“Many good friends and supporters have encouraged me to run for Governor in 2015 – to bring my focus and leadership to the challenges we face as a state,” Vitter stated. “We started to consider this as a family over Thanksgiving. We certainly haven’t made our decision yet, so we’ll be reflecting and praying on it very carefully through the Christmas holidays.
“As we do, please keep us in your thoughts and prayers. And of course, please offer any insights you have,” Vitter added. “Whatever our decision, I’m deeply honored by the opportunity to serve.”
Other Republicans considering running include Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who has already launched a campaign website, as well as state Treasurer John Kennedy and Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle.
The only announced Democrat in the race is state Rep. John Bel Edwards, of Amite, but the field could grow, including prominent names such as New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu if he wins re-election.
When asked in a recent poll who would win the election among Angelle, Dardenne, Edwards, Kennedy and Vitter, 30 percent of the 600 likely Louisiana voters told Southern Media & Opinion Research that the junior senator would get their vote. Kennedy followed with 18.9 percent, Dardenne had 18 percent, Edwards 8 percent and Angelle 2 percent with 22.9 percent undecided, according to the survey.
Vitter already has a healthy fundraising head start, though.
The third-party Super PAC, The Fund for Louisiana’s Future, was created in January by attorney Charlie Spies, who was Vitter’s previous campaign legal counsel. Spies has said it was formed to support Vitter running for either governor in 2015 or re-election in 2016.
The paperwork was filed federally and in Louisiana to provide for “maximum flexibility no matter what Sen. Vitter should decide to do.” Spies became much better known last year, though, as a co-founder of the top Super PAC — the Restore Our Future PAC — for GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney.
The Fund for Louisiana’s Future had raised more than $780,000 as of the end of June, and updated numbers with the Federal Election Commission are not due until January. Fundraisers such as a September alligator hunt came after the last filing deadline.
Super PACs have risen since the 2010 Citizens United Supreme Court decision that ruled that some third-party groups can spend unlimited amounts of money on campaigns through free-speech protections.
Louisiana has maximum caps that limit individual contributions to PACs to $100,000 for each election cycle; Spies is seeking to lift that limit in the state.
As of the end of June, the two $100,000 donors were Galliano Marine Service, owned by Gary Chouest and his family, who have been six-figure contributors to Jindal in the past; and GMAA LLC, the personal limited-liability company of Dr. Keith and Mary Van Meter, of New Orleans, who have contributed to Dardenne, Kennedy and Jindal in the past.
Others who have given at least $20,000 include the Gray and Co. insurance company in Metairie; Bollinger Shipyards in Lockport; Central Crude in Lake Charles; oil-and-gas businessman Jack Lawton, of Sulphur; LCS Correction Services in Baton Rouge; Louisiana River Pilots Association; C. Steven Mitchell, Superior Steel and Supply, in Sulphur; Alan and Thomas Murphy, Murco Oil & Gas, in Shreveport; New Industries Inc. in Morgan City; Phyllis Taylor, Endeavor Industries, New Orleans; Texas Petroleum Investments Co., Houston; and the William F. Scott 1991 Trust in Nederland, Texas.