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Kennedy and Landry team up to elect conservative Republicans

May 3, 2019
Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, listens as Democratic lawmakers question Attorney General William Barr about special counsel Robert Mueller's Russia report, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 1, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — U.S. Sen. John Kennedy is adding his prodigious fundraising talents to a political organization aimed at electing more conservative Republicans to the Louisiana Legislature, joining Attorney General Jeff Landry in the effort.

With both Kennedy and Landry in leadership roles, the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority has unified the state’s top two GOP standard-bearers in its work to shift the Legislature rightward, particularly as term limits will keep many of the longer serving Republican moderates in the state Senate from running for re-election this fall.

“We are very excited to have Sen. Kennedy’s support. He has been a Republican leader here in Louisiana for many years and is a solid conservative voice in the United States Senate,” Landry said in a statement. “He will be a huge help to our efforts.”

The political action committee was started more than a decade ago by former U.S. Sen. David Vitter as the Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority. It helped recruit and elect many of the state’s newer GOP lawmakers.

The name change came after Landry became the organization’s figurehead in 2016, as he and the high-dollar donors on the board sought to shift the philosophical bent of the House and Senate now that Republicans are firmly in control of both legislative chambers.

“We all agree on the same principles,” Kennedy said in an interview Thursday. “I’m just looking for people who understand the proper role of government, who understand that we need government — but not too much government.”

Vitter helped form the organization ahead of the 2007 elections, bringing a more Washington-style campaign strategy to state legislative races, complete with detailed polling, opposition research and campaign financing.

The PAC was instrumental in helping Republicans make historic gains in that election cycle, when legislative term-limits kicked in for the first time. Then, the committee helped Republicans gain majorities in the state House and Senate in 2010 and 2011, with party switches and special elections building on the previous wins.

Nearly $4 million has been spent through the most recent election cycle, with those involved including several regular big-ticket GOP donors, such as shipbuilder Donald “Boysie” Bollinger of Lockport. The committee reported nearly $1 million in the bank in its latest finance report, and Kennedy is expected to help boost that further. He’s known for an ability to raise large sums of cash.

“I’m going to be very aggressive in trying to provide the resources to elect good women and men in our state,” Kennedy said. “I’m not afraid to ask for financial support. I think that’s well-known. I’m going to raise as much money as I can.”

With Kennedy joining Landry’s involvement in the PAC, two of Louisiana’s major GOP figureheads have the opportunity to make a significant mark on the House and Senate terms that begin in 2020, with all 144 legislative seats on the Oct. 12 ballot, many of them open.

More than 40% of the Senate members (16 out of 39 senators) and nearly 30% of the House (31 out of 105 members) are unable to run again for their seats. In addition, some House lawmakers who aren’t term-limited but want to seize an open Senate seat will create further vacancies.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at http://twitter.com/melindadeslatte

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