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U.S. Senator David Vitter running for Louisiana governor

Vitter says the governorship will be his last political job “period”

♦By Rich Shumate, editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Trying to swap the swamps of Washington for the bayous of Baton Rouge, Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter will seek the governorship of his home state of Louisiana in 2015.

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

“I can have a bigger impact in addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana, helping us truly reach our full potential,” Vitter said in YouTube video announcing his candidacy posted January 21.

Vitter, 52, who served five years in the U.S. House before being elected senator in 2004, also said the governorship “will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period.”

Because Louisiana holds its state elections in off years and his Senate term doesn’t end until 2016, Vitter can pursue the governorship in 2015 without giving up his seat. And if he is elected governor, he will be in the unique position of being able to appoint a successor for the rest of his Senate term.

He will face at least one fellow Republican in the governor’s race, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, 59, who issued a statement saying Vitter’s entry was “expected.”

“It is my hope that the governor’s race will offer Louisianians the opportunity to compare and contrast the records of all the candidates, as well as the merits of their ideas to keep our state growing,” Dardenne said.

In Louisiana, Vitter, Dardenne and all other candidates from any party run together in a single primary, with the top two vote getters vying in a runoff if no one gets a majority.

One Democrat has also announced, State Rep. John Bel Edwards, 47, from Roseland. There has also been speculation that another prominent and popular Democrat, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu might make the governor’s race if he wins re-election in February.

Landrieu is the brother of Vitter’s seatmate in the Senate, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu, who is up for re-election in 2014.

One question in the 2015 governor’s race will be whether any of Vitter’s opponents dredge up a prostitution scandal that ensnared the senator in 2007.

After Vitter’s number turned up in a published list of phone records of a Washington madam, Debora Jeane Palfrey, he admitted to what he termed “serious sin,” although he did not directly admit to patronizing prostitutes. Vitter, a Roman Catholic, said he had been forgiven by God and his family.

In 2010, his Democratic opponent, former U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, attempted to make the prostitution scandal an issue, even airing TV ads about the allegations. But in the end, Vitter buried Melancon, capturing 57 percent of the vote.

A poll taken in November by Southern Media and Opinion research put Vitter’s approval rating in Louisiana at 58 percent,  compared to 46 percent for Senator Landrieu and just 38 percent for President Obama.

Vitter’s approval rating was 42 percent among Democrats and 84 percent among Republicans.

Watch the video of Vitter’s announcement:

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