LAKE CHARLES, La. – Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux said that he will be "guided," but not bound, by a ruling from the state attorney general on whether he's legally eligible to run for governor of Louisiana.
State lawmakers have asked Attorney General Charles Foti to issue a ruling on whether Breaux, a resident of Maryland, can enter the race.
Breaux told reporters Thursday that he's eager to see the ruling but will not drop his plans to run if Foti, a fellow Democrat, rules against him or decides not to issue a ruling. Breaux said he won't formally announce a run for governor until after Foti makes a decision — though he already has campaign bumper stickers ready.
"I want to be a candidate for governor," Breaux said. "I am planning to be a candidate for governor. But I also want to do the very best that I can to get a clear opinion as to what the legal issues would be."
Foti's office said it had no timeline for releasing a decision.
Breaux said he's eligible because he considers himself a citizen, a property owner and taxpayer in the state whose family has lived here since the 1700s.
"I'm not trying to sneak in the back door. This is where I'm from," Breaux told reporters at the civic center in Lake Charles.
Republicans and Democrats are already fighting over the question of whether Breaux can legally run, and the state GOP has run television ads saying he cannot.
Sen. Noble Ellington, D-Winnsboro, and Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, have written to Foti saying the attorney general's office should not issue a decision. They said they believe Breaux is ineligible, but said the matter should be decided in the courts.
On the other side, Reps. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte, and William Daniel, R-Baton Rouge, initiated the process by asking Foti to issue a decision on Breaux's candidacy. LaFleur is head of the House Democratic Caucus.
Breaux, who served 32 years in Congress, said he thought it was clear he was eligible, even though he's registered to vote in Maryland. He said he's never voted in that state and never cast a ballot in any state other than Louisiana.
Six candidates are in the race, including U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, state Sen. Walter Boasso, R-Arabi, and Democrat Foster Campbell, a Public Service Commissioner from Shreveport. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, also a Democrat, announced March 20 that she would not run for re-election.
Asked about Jindal — who's far ahead of other candidates in the polls — Breaux called the second-term congressman "a good person, he's very, very smart."
However, Breaux said Jindal would be better off staying in Congress, gaining seniority and experience: "I think right now he's in Congress, and he has a good job, and I encourage him to stay there."
Breaux recalled his early days in Congress and said, "I wasn't ready to be governor. I wasn't ready to be chief executive officer of a state."
Jindal announced he was running for governor in January. His campaign issued a statement late Thursday implicitly contrasting Jindal's early entry into the race with Breaux's ongoing hints that he might enter the race.
"Bobby has been very decisive and honest with the people of Louisiana — he's running for governor," said Timmy Teepell, Jindal's campaign manager. "Our state needs a new start and a clean break from the old politics of the past."
Breaux said he has been interviewing people to serve as his campaign manager, communications officers and other positions in a campaign. He said he's pleased with the bumper sticker design.
Breaux, who's from Crowley, was in Lake Charles to participate in a panel discussion with former U.S. Sen. Bennett Johnston.