Allies for more than four decades, the Chief Minister of the Civil House, Rui Costa (PT), and the government leader in the Senate, Jaques Wagner (PT), took different paths and are leading a kind of cold war with behind-the-scenes disputes in the Bahia and in the hard core of the Lula (PT) government.
The split became explicit at the beginning of the year, when Wagner openly criticized the appointment of Rui’s wife to a vacancy on the Court of Auditors of the Municipalities of Bahia. While allies confirm the internal fight, both state in public that they remain in tune and have good relations.
“There’s no fight at all. We can think differently about some things and that’s not a problem. This just shows that it’s an airy group that defends freedoms. But don’t bet on any division, that’s nonsense,” Wagner said in August in an interview to journalists in Bahia.
Internal disputes in the government, however, make the split clear, and the lack of harmony between the two is clear, for example, in debates about choosing names for important positions.
In the race for the STF (Federal Supreme Court), Rui is a defender of the appointment of the president of the TCU (Federal Court of Accounts), Bruno Dantas, while Wagner prefers the attorney general of the Union, Jorge Messias, who was his advisor in the Senate .
In the fight for the STJ (Superior Court of Justice), the division between the two was cited as one of the reasons why none of the Bahians managed to make up the list chosen by the court to be sent to the Executive.
Rui supported Roberto Frank’s nomination behind the scenes, and Wagner campaigned for Maurício Kertzman. Both are judges at the Court of Justice of Bahia and neither got enough votes to make up the list sent to the Palácio do Planalto.
Jaques Wagner and Rui Costa have been friends for over 40 years and emerged as leaders of the former Chemical and Oil Workers Union, one of the strongest union entities in the Camaçari Industrial Complex.
In 2007, when Wagner took office as governor, Costa joined the government’s hard core, first as Secretary of Institutional Relations, then as head of the Civil House.
In the position, he fought for the succession and was nominated by Wagner as a candidate for governor in 2014. In his choice, Wagner contradicted Lula, who preferred the former president of Petrobras José Sergio Gabrielli for the dispute.
Important PT members from Bahia state, however, that the process of distancing began during Rui’s first term, including on the initiative of Wagner, who preferred to give his successor the freedom to make decisions in the government.
The removal turned into friction in the 2022 succession. Rui Costa was moving to resign from the government and run for the Senate, leaving the government in the hands of vice João Leão (PP).
Furthermore, he worked behind the scenes to launch his wife, Aline Peixoto, as federal deputy, which would only be possible, according to the law, if her husband was not in charge of the local Executive.
Wagner, in turn, always defended that the PT had a name in the dispute. He even put himself forward as a candidate, but ended up giving up at the beginning of 2022. Behind the scenes, he stated that he would only accept running in the election if he was a consensus candidate, which would not be possible due to Rui’s resistance.
However, as he has greater internal influence, he maintained the thesis of his own candidacy and internally defeated the then governor’s articulation, which resulted in the breakup of Leão’s PP, which sought a buffer governor mandate.
Days later, at the launch of the ticket led by Jerônimo Rodrigues (PT), Rui Costa cried when talking about his friendship with Jaques Wagner, spoke of gratitude and said that there was an attempt to “plant intrigues” between the two.
After the elections that gave Jerônimo victory, Rui and Wagner once again joined forces in forming the new governor’s secretariat, working to gain allies in key positions in the administration.
But the clashes escalated after Peixoto was nominated to compete for a place at the Municipal Audit Court, a lifetime position with a salary of R$42,000.
Wagner criticized the nomination of allies, but avoided making public statements about the dispute. The scenario changed in February, when the PT member said in an interview with the “Metro1” portal that he did not agree with the nomination of his ally’s wife.
Weeks later, Aline Peixoto was chosen for the position with a majority in the Legislative Assembly and Wagner did not speak on the subject again. But since then, everyone has been running in their own lane.
Both disagreed again about the succession for Salvador City Hall. Rui Costa tried to nominate José Trindade (PSB), who ended up giving up running for mayor. Wagner, in turn, defends that the PT competes with state deputy Robinson Almeida or supports vice-governor Geraldo Júnior (MDB).
The division between the two created a scenario of uncertainty that promises to continue for the next few months, under suspicion and criticism from allies. The final decision will be made by Governor Jerônimo Rodrigues, who is careful not to offend his two main political godfathers.
In the political scenario of Bahia, Rui Costa has greater influence among parties allied with the governor and moved to give strength to Avante, a party that grew in the wake of the break with the PP. Jaques Wagner, in turn, has greater influence within the PT, where he prevails in internal disputes.
Among Wagner’s allies, there is a view that the Minister of the Civil House wants to remain as a protagonist, shadows Governor Jerônimo and does not let go of parochial issues in Bahia. Politicians closest to Rui claim the opposite and point out that Wagner wants to reaffirm his leadership.
The clashes already have the 2026 elections as a backdrop, when both plan to run for the Senate. There will be two seats up for grabs per state, but allied parties claim at least one of the seats and reject a 100% PT ticket.
Also seeking a place on the ticket are senator Angelo Coronel, who wants to run for re-election, and former federal deputy Ronaldo Carletto, whose political influence grew after assuming the state presidency of Avante.
Even with the tensions, allies rule out a possible break between Rui and Wagner. They consider that it would be a harmful move for both and would create instability in Jerônimo Rodrigues’ base.
They also remember that the opposing political group was defeated in 2006 precisely when there was an internal division between allies of the then governor Paulo Souto and the then senator Antônio Carlos Magalhães (1927-2007).
When contacted, neither of them wanted to comment.