BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - The chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party says Jay Dardenne's career is over after the sitting republican lieutenant governor endorsed the democrat in the race for Louisiana's next governor.
"Jay Dardenne became the Nick Saban of Louisiana Politics," Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party said. "After decades of using the Republican Party and its members for his benefit, Jay has decided to end his political career by supporting a candidate who opposes every public policy position that he once espoused."
In his endorsement, made in LSU's Free Speech Alley, Dardenne said he will always be a republican but supports Edwards, whom he called a pro-life and pro-gun democrat.
"I felt it important to tell the people who supported me what we were going to do," Dardenne said. "They'll make up their own minds but enough of them have contacted us, 'what should we do?' 'what we do next?' and I felt it important to let them know what [my wife] and I were going to do."
Dardenne says shortly after finishing fourth in the governor's race, Senator David Vitter called him.
"He called me and asked me to endorse him and I told him I didn't plan to endorse him and he asked if we could meet and we met briefly and he asked me again and I told him no I would not be endorsing him," Dardenne said. "It's about bringing the state together and having someone who I believe is going to unify us and bring us together and govern in a manner that's going to make Louisiana prosper and be successful and not be divisive. How can I pretend that everything I said about David Vitter less than two weeks ago has no meaning?" Dardenne said.
Political analyst Jim Engster said while voters have a mind of their own, this may sway some.
"There isn't a crossover among party regulars on almost anything and in this case Jay Dardenne has put his career at risk by endorsing John Bel Edwards," he said.
"For those on the fence and there are probably a few, this probably means a few votes and John Bel Edwards right now, if polls are accurate, is ahead and this solidifies his lead."
Edwards promised Dardenne that he would not to disappoint him or his supporters and wake up every day fighting for Louisiana.
For his part, Senator David Vitter wished Dardenne and his family well saying in a statement, "We're very excited about our campaign and the tens of thousands of conservative Louisiana voters who have jumped on board in the past week. Including so many that voted for Jay."
Early voting for the November 21 election starts Saturday.