Louisiana Republican candidate for governor wants to eliminate state income tax

Greg Hilburn
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

Republican Louisiana Rep. Richard Nelson, who has elevated his legislative profile as an advocate to abolish the state income tax, officially announced his campaign for governor Wednesday.

Nelson joins state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, Attorney General Jeff Landry and Treasurer John Schroder as the major Republicans in the race to replace Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, who is term limited after eight years in office.

The first-term Mandeville lawmaker hopes to capitalize on his youth and the promise of a fresh perspective. At 36, Nelson is the youngest candidate to announce so far.

Louisiana Capitol, spring 2022.

“Louisiana has everything going for it, but is held back by leaders who are stuck in the past,” Nelson said in his announcement video. “If Louisiana were just average in the country, we'd all live 4 years longer and get a 33% raise. That's what bad government is costing us: four years of our lives and a third of our income.

“This election we have a choice between career politicians or real solutions, big money or big ideas. I’m 36. I’m not just in this for the next four years. I’m fighting for our next 40 years.”

Nelson, an attorney, biological engineer and former U.S. State Department diplomat who served seven years in the foreign service, has also focused on legislation designed to improve literacy in Louisiana.

But his signature issue is eliminating the state income tax, passing legislation that triggered ongoing hearings on the issue from the House tax-writing committee.

"The elimination of the income tax is the most important thing we can do to move the state forward," Nelson said n a previous interview with USA Today Network. "Texas and Florida are far outpacing us in growth; Texas has six times the growth rate of Louisiana. What's their common denominator? No income tax."

Louisiana state Rep. Richard Nelson, R-Mandeville

Nelson's entry into the race leaves Baton Rouge Congressman Garret Graves as the biggest remaining question mark on the Republican side of the field. Graves has said he will make his decision soon.

Two other Republican heavyweights, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy and Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, opted out of the race during the past two weeks. Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy opted out late in 2022.

Edwards' Democratic Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson has been the most active Democrat exploring the race.

Lake Charles Independent Hunter Lundy and Republican Xan John of Lafayette have also announced they will run, though John oddly said he will support Landry.

Republican West Feliciana Parish President Kenny Havard is also considering the race.

Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1.