By John Haughey
Trump-endorsed Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry will be the first Republican in eight years to move into the governor’s mansion after a dominant walk-off primary win on Oct. 14.
With 95 percent of the tally counted, Mr. Landry won 51.6 percent of more than 1 million ballots cast in the off-year election, more than doubling the combined votes of 13 other candidates—including six fellow Republicans—making a Nov. 18 runoff unnecessary.”Thankful beyond belief. I’m ready to get to work for Louisiana!” Mr. Landry said on X, formerly known as Twitter, in a statement as curt and crisp as his rocket campaign to Baton Rouge.
Under Louisiana’s “jungle primary” system, all contenders are on the same ballot. If any candidate garners 50 percent or more of the primary tally, he or she wins. Otherwise, the top two vote-getters move onto a runoff.
Mr. Landry appeared to have a lock on at least a runoff berth for months, with some polls putting his support at or above 50 percent.
So the big question in the gubernatorial primary was whether Mr. Landry would hit that 50-percent mark.
As of 10:15 p.m., the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office reported Mr. Landry had won 542,094 votes, 51.6 percent of the 1.051 million votes cast, to easily finish first and secure the primary knock-out.
Mr. Landry, 52, served one Congressional term, from 2010 to 2012, before losing his seat in a reapportioned district GOP primary that pitted him against fellow incumbent Rep. Charles Boustany (R-La.).
He won his first state attorney general race in 2015, deposing two-term incumbent Buddy Caldwell, and was reelected in 2019.
Mr. Landry clashed often with Gov. Edwards, including by legally challenging the governor’s efforts to protect LGBT employees from discrimination.
He was among state attorneys general who joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton in filing an unsuccessful lawsuit to overturn the 2020 presidential election by throwing out Electoral College votes in several swing states.
Wilson Falls Short
Democrat Shawn Wilson, a former Louisiana Department of Transportation & Development Secretary selected by the retiring Gov. Edwards to succeed him, finished a distant second in the primary with 272,262 votes, or 25.9 percent of the total, with 95 percent of the state’s 3,929 precincts reporting.
Democrats—alarmed by low early-voting turnouts that saw more Republicans cast ballots than Democrats, a reversal of normal voting patterns—feared Mr. Landry could win the governor’s election outright in the vote on Saturday, Oct. 14, and had rallied feverishly in the waning weeks to drive turnout to force a Nov. 18 runoff.
But in the end, the end was Saturday.
Mr. Wilson also hoped to benefit from a robust field of GOP candidates who would diversify Republican votes up and down an “off-year” primary ballot that, in addition to the gubernatorial contest, included elections for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, all state Legislature seats, and more than 200 local offices and four proposed constitutional amendments.
But Republicans not named “Landry” collectively amassed less than 20 percent, falling short of the wedge that the Democrat needed. With 95 percent of the tally counted, Louisiana Association of Business & Industry President Stephen Waguespack had 5.8 percent; state Treasurer John Schroder 5.3 percent; two-term state Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Slidell) 1.7 percent; and independent Hunter Lundy 4.9 percent.
The Louisiana election is one of three 2023 gubernatorial contests. There were 36 in 2022, and 11 are set for 2024. There are now 26 Republican and 24 Democrat governors.
In Kentucky, as was the case in Louisiana, a Republican attorney general is challenging a Democrat incumbent. Gov. Andy Beshear faces a stiff challenge from Attorney General Daniel Cameron. In Mississippi, Republican Gov. Tate Reeves is favored to win a second term.
GOP Secures Supermajorities
In other Oct. 14 primary results for state offices, Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser easily won a third term outright in the primary, securing nearly two-thirds of the tally.
Louisiana Republican Solicitor General Liz Murrill, who campaigned extensively alongside Mr. Landry, finished first in a five-candidate attorney general primary with 45 percent of the tally.
Ms. Murrill will meet Democrat trial attorney Lindsey Cheek, who notched 23 percent support, in the Nov. 18 runoff.
All 39 state Senate seats and 105 state House seats were on the ballot, although only 76 races—19 state Senate seats and 57 state House seats—were contested. Republicans appear likely to sustain two-thirds majorities in both chambers.
Louisiana is one of four states with 2023 Legislature elections. Like Republicans in Louisiana, the GOP in Mississippi and Democrats in New Jersey are expected to retain, if not grow, their majorities. Virginia’s Nov. 7 state Legislature elections, however, could see the GOP wrest control of the purple state’s General Assembly in this fall’s most watched election.
Louisiana primary voters approved three of four proposed constitutional amendments on the Oct. 14 ballot. Four other ballot measures will go before voters on Nov. 18. The proposals need at least 60 percent support to pass.
Amendment 1, which prohibits “funds, goods, and services donated by a foreign government or nongovernmental source for use in conducting elections,” was adopted with more than 70 percent of the vote.
Voters passed by nearly 80 percent Amendment 2, which encodes into the state Constitution the statement that “the freedom to worship in a church or other place of worship is a fundamental right that is worthy of the highest order of protection.”
Amendment 3, which requires that a minimum of 25 percent of nonrecurring state revenues be applied to the state retirement system’s “unfunded liability,” fell short of the 60 percent adoption threshold.
Voters also approved Amendment 4’s proposal to deny property tax exemptions to nonprofit organizations that “own residential property that is in such a state of disrepair that it is dangerous to the public’s health or safety.”