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U.S. Rep. Garret Graves reverses course, says he won’t run for another term


U.S. Rep. Garret Graves reverses course, says he won’t run for another term

Jun 14, 2024 | 5:40 pm ET
By Julie O'Donoghue
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves reverses course, says he won’t run for another term
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves says he will not run for reelection to Congress.(Nathan Howard/Getty Images)

After finding himself boxed in by fellow Republican Gov. Jeff Landry and the Louisiana Legislature, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, announced Friday he won’t seek another term in Congress.

“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,” Graves said in a written statement. 

The congressman said he believed Louisiana’s most recent congressional map would eventually be struck down, but not in time for the November election.

“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,” he wrote. 

He faced unfavorable options for seeking reelection in November.

State lawmakers, with the blessing of Landry, reconfigured Graves’ 6th Congressional District to have a majority-Black population and favor a Democrat. The congressman could have run in the adjoining 5th District, but it is represented by fellow Republican Julia Letlow, the widow of Graves’ close friend Luke Letlow and the preferred choice of the Republican establishment.

Louisiana’s GOP leaders, including U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson, made it clear they would back Letlow over Graves in a head-to-head match by issuing a series of early endorsements for her several weeks ago.

A recent court ruling over Louisiana’s new congressional districts also didn’t go Graves’ way. The map that alters his 6th District will be in effect on Election Day, making it difficult for him to stay in Congress. 

“This has been an amazing experience resulting in thousands of new friendships and unrivaled progress for the area we represent. In this divisive and politically-polarized environment, to receive over 80 percent of the vote in the last election confirms that we were getting it mostly right. Thank you for the opportunity to serve,” Graves said Friday.

The political career of Graves, 52, might have been cut short – at least for the time being – by the collision of two political events.

A federal court insisted Louisiana rework its congressional districts to give Black voters an opportunity at better representation. Graves also got into political fights with two of Louisiana’s most powerful Republicans: Landry and U.S. House Majority Leader Steve Scalise.

A federal judge told state lawmakers they needed to convert one more of its congressional seats into a majority-Black district to better reflect the state’s demographics. Over 30% of Louisiana residents identify as Black, but only one of the state’s six U.S. House districts had a majority-Black population.

The ruling meant one of Louisiana’s five Republican representatives in Congress was likely to lose their seat. 

Graves made himself the odd man out last year when he toyed with running against Landry for governor. He also didn’t publicly support Scalise’s push to become House speaker, which occurred last fall before Johnson, another Louisiana Republican, won the job.

Legislators didn’t hesitate to target Graves’ district for dismantling when they voted to redraw the congressional districts in January. Legal challenges to the latest congressional map remain but likely won’t alter the makeup before the fall election when Graves would have had to run. 

Graves was first elected to Congress in 2014 to replace Republican Bill Cassidy, who had won a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Graves was a close ally and top lieutenant of former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California, who tapped him in 2021 as the lead Republican for a select committee on climate.      

He previously worked for former Gov. Bobby Jindal as the head of the state Coastal Restoration and Protection Authority. He was also a congressional aide to former U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin and Sen. David Vitter.