- Associated Press - Thursday, October 24, 2019

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry is extending his long-running feud with Gov. John Bel Edwards into the governor’s race, creating a state-level PAC to assail the Democratic governor as he seeks a second term in office.

Landry’s name isn’t listed on the paperwork for the Make Louisiana Great Again PAC filed with Louisiana’s ethics administration office. But Landry’s political consultant Brent Littlefield confirmed Thursday the attorney general is behind the effort, which hasn’t yet filed information about its donors.

The PAC launched a 30-second statewide TV ad ahead of the Nov. 16 runoff election that slams Edwards on the bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed, suggesting it damaged public safety.

“Jeff Landry supports efforts for criminal justice reform, if it is done right,” Littlefield said in a statement. He said Edwards “failed by rushing to release convicted criminals from jail and Louisiana is paying the price.”

Edwards‘ runoff opponent, Republican businessman Eddie Rispone, ran similarly themed advertising in the primary election. Conservative organizations and others that supported the criminal justice changes called the advertising an inaccurate political ploy.

The criminal justice law changes passed in 2017 with widespread Republican and Democratic legislative backing , modeled after similar work in other Southern states. Support came from a wide ideological spectrum, including Christian conservatives, business leaders and liberal organizations.

Since then, Louisiana has ended its tenure as the nation’s top jailer. Congress and President Donald Trump enacted similar federal changes in 2018.

“Jeff Landry and Eddie Rispone claim to support the President, but they’re attacking Gov. Edwards for bipartisan criminal justice reform mirrored by President Trump at the federal level. Talk about phony,” Edwards campaign spokesman Eric Holl said in a statement. “According to FBI crime data, Louisiana is safer after criminal justice reform, with murders decreasing faster here than across the country.”

The state’s rewrite expanded probation and parole opportunities and reduced sentences, mainly for people convicted of nonviolent offenses. Most of the savings from the prison population reduction must pay for programs aimed at keeping exiting inmates from returning to crime.

Landry, who was reelected to a second term in this month’s primary, has repeatedly criticized the early release of some prisoners since Louisiana’s law changes were enacted, blaming Edwards without mentioning the majority-Republican Legislature that passed the overhaul.

The attorney general and Edwards have quarreled numerous times since the two men took office in 2016, sparring over finances, LGBT rights, the death penalty, health care and the scope of their authority.

Landry was sitting on a nearly $2 million campaign account at the end of September, according to the latest information available. He could shift some of that money into the state PAC account to spend on the anti-Edwards effort. A campaign finance report disclosing the PAC’s donors and spending isn’t due until November.

Landry also was behind a Make Louisiana Great Again super PAC created at the federal level in 2016, Littlefield said. That PAC trashed Republican congressional candidate Scott Angelle and backed GOP contender Clay Higgins, who won the election and is in his second term in the U.S. House representing the Acadiana region where Landry lives.


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

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