"I believe that as our next governor, I can have a bigger impact
addressing the unique challenges and opportunities that we face in
Louisiana — helping us fully reach our full potential," the social
conservative said in a YouTube video announcing his candidacy.
If successful, he would replace current governor Bobby Jindal, who
has run up against term limits and is viewed as a potential
candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Vitter, 52, intends to stay in the Senate while he campaigns for
Louisiana's top office, his spokesman said. That would ensure his
decision will not affect the Senate's balance of power in the 2014
congressional elections in November.
Democrats currently control the Senate, 53-45, plus two independent
senators who caucus with the Democrats.
Vitter's second, six-year term expires at the end of 2016.
Vitter said he has been preparing for his gubernatorial run with a
series of town halls and other meetings across the state and pledged
to improve education and make Louisiana more attractive to growing
"We'll do it by reforming taxes and spending, spurring economic
growth and creating budget stability," he said, adding that
governorship would be his "last political job, elected or
Vitter weathered a sex scandal during his first term and won
re-election in 2010. In 2007, he admitted to "a very serious sin"
and apologized after he was linked to a Washington escort service.
Vitter's phone number was found five times in phone records dating
from 1999 to 2001 for "D.C. Madam" Deborah Jeane Palfrey, who is
accused of running a prostitution ring in Washington, the New
Orleans Times-Picayune reported at the time. Palfrey has said she
operated a legal escort service.
Vitter said at the time he and his wife confronted the issue and
sought marriage counseling. He accused enemies of dredging up the
scandal to hurt him.
The allegations stunned many in Louisiana because Vitter, a Harvard
graduate and Rhodes scholar, was a highly visible social
conservative who championed family values and ardently opposed
abortion and gay marriage.
CONSERVATIVE BILLS, NO LAWS
Last year, Vitter introduced more bills — 67 — than any other member
of Congress, but none were enacted into law, according to Govtrack.us, an independent political tracking website. Many of the
proposals reflected conservative political causes, including
restrictions on abortions and prohibitions on regulation of U.S.
[to top of second column]
During the autumn battle over the government shutdown, Vitter gained
notoriety for proposing that members of Congress, their staffs and
top Obama administration officials be required to purchase health
insurance on the so-called "Obamacare" exchanges with no subsidies,
arguing that this was a hardship that would prompt Congress to
change the healthcare reform law.
His proposal was not adopted, but some lawmakers are voluntarily
buying insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges.
To win the governorship in 2015, Vitter would have to defeat a
declared Republican opponent, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.
Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy also has said he is
considering entering the race.
On the Democratic side, state Representative John Bel Edwards has
declared his candidacy. Many in the state also are watching to see
whether popular New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu decides to run.
Landrieu, a Democrat who has presided over the city's rebuilding
after a devastating 2005 hurricane, is expected to win a third
mayoral term on February 1, with an endorsement from President
Barack Obama. He is the brother of Louisiana's Democratic senator,
Mary Landrieu, who also is seeking re-election in November.
LaPolitics.com, a state political website, in December reported poll
results showing that Vitter would lead a theoretical three-way race
with Landrieu and Dardenne, with 35 percent of the vote.
In Louisiana's open primary system, all candidates run together in a
single election. If one fails to reach a majority, a runoff is held
between the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation.
(Reporting by David Lawder; editing by Amanda Kwan and Jim Loney)
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