Republican Congressman Ralph Abraham has entered the 2019 governor's race, saying simply, "I intend to win."
Abraham, the 5th District congressman from Alto, joins wealthy Baton Rouge Republican businessman Eddie Rispone as the announced challengers to Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards.
The three-term congressman came out of the chute firing at the incumbent Edwards.
"Louisiana deserves better than what she currently has," Abraham said in an interview with USA Today Network. "I'm seeing businesses leaving and a governor who has been focused on raising taxes. I intend to do something about that."
In a statement, Edwards accused Abraham of abandoning an office to which he was just re-elected last month.
"On Monday, Rep. Abraham said he couldn’t launch a campaign for governor because it would distract him from important work on the Farm Bill, soybean crisis, looming government shutdown, flood insurance expiration and other issues the people of Louisiana have entrusted him to handle on their behalf," Edwards said. "None of those issues have been resolved. Now, just a few days later, he’s abandoning those responsibilities along with the congressional office he was re-elected to exactly one month ago. For the sake of the people of Louisiana, it is my hope that he seriously considers whether or not he is capable of running for governor while fulfilling his duties in Washington, D.C."
Abraham, a medical doctor and veterinarian who likes to say he can treat anything on two or four feet, has said since last year he may run for governor.
The congressman said he needed to focus on the last two weeks of the current Congress before fully engaging in a gubernatorial campaign.
Abraham, who is also a farmer, is a pilot for the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Civil Air Patrol and the Pilots for Patients not for profit organization.
He has been married 43 years to Dianne. The couple has three children and nine grandchildren.
The 5th Congressional District includes 24 parishes in northern, central and and southeast Louisiana.
Abraham's announcement comes just four days after Republican U.S. Sen. John Kennedy stunned the field by opting out of the race.
Among other Republicans still publicly considering a run include state Treasurer John Schroder and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell.
Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.
“I welcome this debate," the governor said. "I've got a consistent record of working across the aisle to get things done for Louisiana. The state and our people are much better off now than they were three years ago, and I look forward to another five years of putting the people of Louisiana first.”
Greg Hilburn covers state politics for the USA TODAY Network of Louisiana. Follow him on Twitter @GregHilburn1