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Rep. Garret Graves says he won't seek re-election this year after lawmakers alter district

1 month 12 hours 19 minutes ago Friday, June 14 2024 Jun 14, 2024 June 14, 2024 2:47 PM June 14, 2024 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE — U.S. Rep. Garret Graves said Friday he will not seek re-election to Congress.

Louisiana lawmakers this year sacrificed Graves' seat after federal courts told the state to create a second minority-majority district. Their mapmaking effort involved protecting seats for House Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise, and put Graves in a race where the deck might be stacked against him.

“Representing South Louisiana and serving in the United States Congress has been an incredible honor.  From the beginning and ever since, we have constantly emphasized that our decisions and actions are grounded in what’s best for Louisianians first and foremost.  Our accomplishments confirm the steadfast commitment to this objective," Graves said.

The five-term congressman was targeted after not endorsing Gov. Jeff Landry in last year's election. He opted instead to back business leader Stephen Waguespack. In his endorsement, he said Waguespack was "the person in this race who can put politics aside, do what’s right and give us the Louisiana that we deserve.”

Last month, Graves said he would seek re-election, but didn't know if he would campaign in his current district or seek to unseat Rep. Julia Letlow, a Republican from Start. 

Friday, he said he would bow out.

“After much input from constituents, consultation with supporters, consensus from family, and guidance from the Almighty, it is clear that running for Congress this year does not make sense," he said in a statement.

A three-judge panel of federal judges threw out a map lawmakers adopted in January, but the U.S. Supreme Court last month ordered the state to use it this fall, but this fall only. At the time, Graves said the Supreme Court acted "lazily" and had forced Louisiana to use an "unconstitutional, confusing map."

Graves' current south Louisiana-based 6th District was modified for the upcoming race and will stretch from Baton Rouge to Shreveport. Letlow's 5th District, now based largely in northeastern Louisiana, extends into Baton Rouge and more than half of the Florida Parishes.

Graves stood a decent chance of defeating Letlow with the shift in the 5th District's population. By far, most voters in Letlow's new district are loser to Baton Rouge than her home in Richland Parish.

Graves said Louisiana was giving up a lot with the change, given that Louisiana will have different districts in 2026.

"It is evident that a run in any temporary district will cause actual permanent damage to Louisiana’s great representation in Congress. Campaigning in any of these districts now is not fair to any of the Louisianians who will inevitably be tossed into yet another district next year," Graves said.

“The consequences of redistricting will affect Louisiana’s first opportunity in history to chair the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee," he said. "This committee is the throttle for federal action on traffic, bridges, railroads and airports – and Louisiana priorities like ports and Mississippi River commerce, coastal and hurricane and flood protection, disaster response and recovery, national defense and Coast Guard, economic development and more. Admittedly, it is a serious disappointment to miss the historic opportunity to champion Louisiana’s priorities in this committee." 

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