- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The long-time warden of Louisiana’s state penitentiary said Monday he may run for governor this year, a candidacy that would add a new twist to a field of candidates already filled with high-profile names.

Burl Cain, who has run the 18,000-acre prison in Angola for 20 years, said people have encouraged him to join the list of candidates for the October election. But the Republican warden said he hasn’t decided whether to jump into the race yet.

“As of now I’m not a candidate at this time. I’m praying about it. And I’m contemplating it,” Cain, 72, told the Press Club of Baton Rouge.

A Facebook page has been created to push a Cain candidacy, and large signs touting the warden for governor have popped up, but Cain said he doesn’t know who started the effort.

“I didn’t originate that thought,” he said. “That thought’s come to me from a whole bunch of different directions, and that thought has originated from people who have been to Angola and visited with us and have seen what we do and so forth and they want to see this common sense stuff.”

Not on the list of those seeking a Cain campaign? His wife, the warden said.

At least four candidates are running for governor so far: Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards and Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy also said he’s considering the race.

Cain said he has no timeline for making a decision and hasn’t done anything to organize a campaign or raise money. “Haven’t done anything but to just be ol’ Burl,” he said.

If he decided to run for governor or make any move to mount a candidacy, Cain said he’d have to resign as warden of the penitentiary. To answer questions about whether he’s weighing a campaign, Cain read from a statement crafted by his staff to stay in line with civil service rules.

Warden of the prison commonly known as Angola since 1995, Cain has been credited with improving conditions and decreasing violence at the working prison farm, which has 3,600 inmates. He’s pushed the expansion of religious outreach at Angola, which has eight churches.

“Moral people don’t rape, pilfer and steal. The immoral people are criminals,” Cain said. “If I’m going to change the prison, I’ve got to get them to become moral. So where do I find morality best and quickest? I find it in religion.”

Cain’s prison is the subject of an ongoing federal lawsuit about heat levels. A federal judge ruled in December 2013 that death row gets so hot that it violates U.S. constitutional protections against cruel and unusual punishment and demanded a cooling plan. State officials are appealing the ruling.

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