Correction: An earlier version of this post misspelled the name of Democratic state Rep. John Bel Edwards
Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter, who pitched a heated campaign last year to block health care payments to members of Congress and their staff, announced Tuesday that he is running for governor of the Pelican State.
Vitter became a figure of public derision in 2007 when his name appeared in phone records of a D.C. escort service, but he easily won re-election to his Senate seat in 2010.
"I believe that as our next governor, I can have a bigger impact addressing the unique challenges and opportunities we face in Louisiana," Vitter said in an e-mail to supporters.
Vitter said that as governor, he would push for excellence in education, budget stability, tax and spending changes, and government accountability.
"This will be my last political job, elected or appointed, period," Vitter said in the e-mail. "So my only agenda will be to do what's best for all Louisianians, from our best and brightest to our most vulnerable."
Vitter is widely considered the front-runner to replace GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, whose term expires in 2016.
"We've known for two years he's running,'' said Jennifer Duffy, a senior editor at the non-partisan Cook Political Report, which tracks governors races. "He's also staking his claim to first place in line.''
Bernie Pinsonat, a Louisiana pollster and political consultant, said a recent poll he conducted showed Vitter with an 80% favorability rating among Republican voters.
Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardene has said he intends to run for governor. Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy and Scott Angelle, a member of the Public Service Commission, also are potential candidates.
On the Democratic side, state Rep. John Bel Edwards announced his bid for governor earlier this year, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu may enter the race.
Senators who may be happy to see Vitter and his campaign against congressional health care benefits go away may have to wait a while. In the video announcing his campaign launch, Vitter said "an active campaign is still a year away."