BATON ROUGE, La. – Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux on Friday bowed out of the Louisiana governor's race, saying questions about his eligibility would hamper his ability to run an issue-based campaign.
"While I appreciate the hard work of the attorney general and his office, the failure of a clear declaration of my status as a (Louisiana) citizen greatly inhibits my ability to conduct a campaign based on the issues instead of the law," Breaux said in a statement issued Friday evening through the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Earlier Friday, Louisiana Attorney General Charles Foti sidestepped the question of whether Breaux is eligible to run in the Oct. 20 primary.
"I said I would be guided by the attorney general's opinion," Breaux said, "and therefore will not be a candidate for governor."
Breaux had wanted a ruling from Foti on whether the state constitution bars him from the election because he has been a Maryland resident since 2005. Republicans point to several facts that they say show Breaux has given up his Louisiana "citizenship" and therefore his eligibility: He has a Maryland driver's license, a homestead exemption in that state and a "nonresident" Louisiana hunting license.
Foti declined to get involved. He issued a statement saying the question should be resolved in the courtroom.
"I must refrain from rendering an opinion on the ultimate issue of whether Mr. Breaux meets the qualifications to become a candidate," Foti said.
Breaux expressed disappointment that Foti had not taken a position.
"I have always felt that this issue needed to be settled as soon as possible so that the governor's election could be about the important challenges we face and not about me personally," he said in his statement.
"For me to run now means that we would face a campaign based on an eligibility to run, with the prospects of being in a courtroom only weeks before the election. That is not in the best interest of our state or what this election should be about," he added.
A spokeswoman for the Louisiana Democratic Party said Breaux asked the party to distribute the statement on his behalf. She said Breaux would not be giving interviews.
Danny Ford, executive director of the Democratic Party, said Breaux wanted the race to be about issues and not about "technicalities" surrounding his candidacy.
Ford said the party has "several candidates" considering a run, and noted that Foster Campbell, a Public Service Commissioner, already is running.