PAC supporting Waguespack in the governor’s race attacks Landry; D.A. Jason Williams says he’s being urged to run

Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 7:29 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2023 at 6:03 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Attorney General Jeff Landry, a candidate for Louisiana governor, reacted to a campaign ad attacking him over crime in the state. New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams responded to rumblings that he would run for governor.

In an ad, Reboot Louisiana PAC slams Landry and highlights its support for Stephen Waguespack, who stepped down as head of the La. Association of Business and Industry to run for governor. Both men are Republicans.

The ad says, “As Louisiana’s top law enforcement official Jeff Landry has failed us. Murder, rape, carjackings. Under Jeff Landry, Louisiana is now the most dangerous state in America. Stephen Waguespack has a plan to take La. back from the criminals.”

FOX 8 asked Landry about the ad.

“Look, I really don’t have a response to people who are out there and want to engage in that type of politicking and I think the citizens of this state really want to see a governor’s race about issues that they care deeply about,” said Landry. “I think that certainly echoes the comments that the majority leader of the country and our great congressman Steve Scalise echoed yesterday.”

Scalise, a Republican who is House Majority Leader, thinks the ad will hurt Republicans’ chances in the governor’s race. He issued a statement urging the PAC to take down the ad.

“Louisiana must elect a bold conservative as our next governor in order to move our state forward and in a positive direction. The best way for a Republican to regain the Governor’s mansion is by laying out their vision for the state’s future and building momentum by way of inspiring others to join in their cause.

While the temptation always exists, Republicans attacking other Republicans is the only way we can lose this November’s election. Stephen Waguespack is a friend, but those supporting his campaign and outside efforts are hurting his chances—and Louisiana Republicans—by breaking Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment in launching negative attacks against the Republican front-runner, Jeff Landry.

We must learn from the mistakes of the 2015 and 2019 governor’s races, where Republican infighting ultimately squandered our opportunities to win the Governor’s mansion. As we work towards getting Louisiana back on track in 2023, Republican candidates must focus on their positive vision for our state, not instigating intra-party attacks and provoking defensive retaliation. Ultimately, this unproductive discourse only benefits those who want to keep our state on the wrong track.

Stephen Waguespack should denounce this negative ad and Reboot Louisiana PAC should take down this attack ad immediately.”

Landry has his own crime-centered ads. In one, he singles out the crime problem in New Orleans.

“New Orleans your criminal justice system is broken,” the ad says.

MORE: AG Jeff Landry announces run for governor

In another part of the same ad, images of New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell and D.A. Jason Williams are shown as the ad says, “We’re going to hold everyone and I mean everyone accountable for violent crime.”

FOX 8 also asked Landry about criticism of his anti-crime campaign ad that is focused on New Orleans.

“Listen, the statistics don’t lie, right? Louisiana right now, twice now, twice now, Louisiana has held three cities in the top 10 most dangerous cities in the country, okay. If you go out and look, those are not my statistics, I didn’t put them together,” Landry said.

Williams addressed speculation that he is eyeing the governor’s race. FOX 8 asked for an interview with Williams but he replied with a written statement.

In the statement, Williams acknowledges being urged to run and he also criticized Landry, saying Landry has been largely absent in the fight against crime.

In response to recent discussion and headlines surrounding growing encouragement to enter this gubernatorial race, I need to be very clear that regardless of this urging, my priority is to fulfill the role and responsibilities of my current job as DA. As we all know too well, New Orleans is not immune to this unparalleled nationwide violent crime surge and ensuring that we surge back demands my full attention. My family and I have no desire to leave New Orleans.

However, I will not stand silent while Jeff Landry attacks the city of New Orleans. As Attorney General, Jeff Landry has had 7 1/2 years to develop policies and approaches to respond to the rise in violent crime throughout our state, and has taken no real action. To date, he hasn’t meaningfully engaged my office or reached out to me once to get in this fight. He has neglected to institute a single initiative, to address crime in New Orleans or any other parish seriously in need of public safety support. His focus has been directed elsewhere. He has been more concerned with prosecuting women for their reproductive choices and pandering to the far-right Trump base than addressing the critical needs in New Orleans and in Louisiana. Doubling down on wrong-headed thinking in an effort to turn our state in to the ‘Handmaids’ Tale’ has not made us safer. Now, he has unleashed hateful, uninformed, inaccurate and racially charged rhetoric in an effort to further divide the people of this state for his own political gain. He clearly sees race-baiting and division as his path way to victory.

As District Attorney, I have made addressing violent crimes - murder, rape, shootings and armed robbery - a priority. I have reallocated resources to ensure appropriate attention and expertise are given to these cases, and have tried several of them in court alongside my ADAs. I have moved to prosecute juveniles as adults in violent cases, instituted proper and ethical use of the habitual offender statute and worked with my team to ensure these controversial policies are applied judiciously and only in the most deserving circumstances. I established a Civil Rights Division, to ensure people who were wrongfully convicted aren’t needlessly sitting in jail while the real perpetrators are left on our streets. This saves taxpayer dollars, that can be redistributed to pursue and prosecute violent offenders. I’ve landed innovative partnerships with the private sector to skillfully analyze open-source data, like social media, in partnership with NOPD to solve crimes. I’ve done all of these things without, and in spite of, Attorney General Jeff Landry. He has no right - and no standing - to criticize crime in New Orleans or elsewhere in the state because he has done nothing to address it. His policies and efforts, or lack thereof, have been impotent as the State’s lead prosecutor. Through historic neglect of such a consequential office, he has effectively shepherded the state into this violent crime wave - in urban and rural parishes alike - without any coherent strategies from his office to reverse the tide.

Despite the AG’s rhetoric. The people of this state agree on more than they disagree on. Republicans and democrats, liberals and conservatives, rich and poor, people of every race and ethnicity all want to be safe. They also know that fair court rooms and safe streets are not opposing issues, in fact they go hand and hand. Maybe it is time to have a statewide intellectual and historically accurate conversation about just how the state got in this position.

AG Landry has been completely absent from this fight, instead choosing to spend his time running for governor in face of an unparalleled national crime surge. Over the past 7 years, the state has needed an Attorney General dedicated to actually working on this violent crime problem, helping parishes strategically surge back and rebuild, rather than just using the office for campaign fodder. AG Landry taking his eyes off the state’s needs to gain Donald Trump’s attention and approval has not served the needs of Louisianans.

I am honored that well-respected people throughout the State are urging me to consider this post at such a critical moment. I was certainly not thinking about running, given my full docket and the progress of my office early in this term. These debates, however, would be very different were I to join the race; and being in a contest with a candidate who is publicly working harder to ban more books than high-powered assault weapons has some appeal. Jeff Landry has shown his priorities are purely political, and I’m not going to let the City of New Orleans be a pawn in his self-serving aspirations.

Landry commented on the prospect of Williams joining the governor’s race.

“I know that Jason Williams has taken a lot of offense to maybe things we’ve done as the attorney general. I’m confused, does he want to be the attorney general, does he want to be the governor, I don’t know. It doesn’t matter to me who gets in and out of this race,” said Landry.

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