Sen. David Vitter’s announcement Tuesday that he will run for governor of Louisiana in 2015 marks the latest chapter in a remarkable comeback story for a politician who was once embroiled in a high-profile prostitution scandal.
Vitter (R) made his announcement in a Web video, confirming a bid for the state’s top job that he has long been rumored to be considering. He said the office of governor would be the last he would hold.
“I believe that as our next governor, I can have a bigger impact addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana, helping us truly reach our full potential,” he said.
In recent years, Vitter has climbed from the depths of personal and political embarrassment to reestablish his footing as one of his state’s most popular politicians. He begins his gubernatorial campaign as the Republican front-runner. Recent polls showed Vitter running ahead of his GOP competition. The senator faces another statewide officeholder — Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne — and could face a second one in state Treasurer John Kennedy. Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) is term-limited.
In 2007, Vitter apologized in public after his number appeared in telephone records of the “D.C. Madam.”
“This was a very serious sin in my past for which I am, of course, completely responsible,” he said.
Vitter was never charged. And a congressional panel cleared him of wrongdoing. Through luck and perseverance, he escaped the fate of many other politicians who were expelled from office after a sex scandal.
Time was on Vitter’s side. He didn’t face reelection until 2010, allowing for the story to fade from voters’ minds. Meanwhile, 2010 was a banner year for Republicans fueled by unhappiness with President Obama, particularly in deeply red states such as Louisiana. Vitter was able to keep a job that might have slipped away under other circumstances.
Since then, Vitter has found ways to work across the aisle and rebuild his credibility. He has joined with Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to address flood concerns and has taken on the financial industry with Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), one of the chamber’s most liberal members.
In his announcement, Vitter promised that he would fight corruption and said that running for governor will not interfere with his day job.
“Let me first assure you this decision will in no way limit the critical work I’m doing today in the U.S. Senate,” he said.
On the Democratic side, state Rep. John Bel Edwards is running, but all eyes are on New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is up for reelection this year. Landrieu, the brother of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), faces a primary in the coming weeks but is heavily favored to retain his post. The question is what he will do next.
Vitter was first elected to the Senate in 2004. He previously served in the House and in the Louisiana legislature before that.
Paul Kane contributed to this report.