Louisiana Conservatives Overperformed in Statewide Elections, Beating Democrats and Republicans Alike

AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Getting somewhat lost in the madness of what's going on in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the Middle East is the fact that, over the weekend, Louisiana held statewide and local elections in various key positions. 

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The final turnout was low - only about 36 percent - as opposed to the mid-40s that we usually see (why Louisiana has its state-level elections in a really off year is beyond me, but alas). But the turnout problem was a problem for Democrats rather than Republicans. In fact, based on the results from Saturday, it appears that Louisiana conservatives were highly motivated.

As a result, they not only carried the current Attorney General, Jeff Landry, across the finish line in the Governor's race in a jungle primary with several other Republicans and a Democrat, but they did so in the numbers necessary to prevent a run-off. Landry won with somewhere between 51-52 percent of the statewide vote. His leading opponent was Democrat Shawn Wilson, who was somewhere in the mid-20s.

That is a significant win for Landry, who came into the race with a ton of money and support from both the state party and the state's Republican voters. Those who could best be identified as "NeverLandry" couldn't decide on a candidate they preferred over him and watered their own odds down to the point that they could be dismissed with a wave of the hand. Even if they had consolidated, it's hard to determine what their path forward would have been.

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Across the state, several moderate Republicans (many of whom routinely sided with Democrats over their own party platform) ran for key positions and lost embarrassingly. The current House Speaker, Clay Schexnayder, came in fourth place in the Secretary of State race. It will be Republican Nancy Landry against Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup, and it is my hope that Nancy Landry wins because she would be stellar in the role.

In the Attorney General's race, the current office-holder (governor-elect Landry) endorsed his Solicitor General, Liz Murrill, and she will be taking on a Democrat in that race after picking up 45 percent. One of her opponents, John Stefanski, is a moderate (at best) Republican legislator who came in a distant third.

In several legislative races, Republicans who were backed by groups of trial lawyers (and people with close ties to the current Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards) lost handily. Conservatives who are tired of the old money, special interest groups, and your general Good Ol' Boy network running the state stepped up on Saturday.

But also notable is the fact that Democrats could not seem to be bothered to show up and vote. Orleans Parish, for example, is a huge Democratic stronghold - predominantly thanks to black voters - and they barely showed up. That Wilson, a black Democrat running for governor, could only get about 71 percent of the vote with only 27 percent of the total voters turning out is a very bad sign. In 2015, white Democrat John Bel Edwards got 72 percent of the vote in a race that got about 32 percent of the total vote out (four years later, as an incumbent, Edwards got 87 percent of the Orleans Parish vote, and over 38 percent of the parish turned out).

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Lack of enthusiasm across the state for Democrats led to the party's candidates down the ballot having to fend for themselves. The state's Democratic Party is in the midst of a leadership crisis (whether they actually know it or not), and there will have to be a reckoning. You can't have a statewide election and not lift a finger to get your gubernatorial candidate across the finish line. The state Republican Party worked hard to consolidate voters behind candidates, and their efforts appeared to have paid off. 

The Louisiana Democratic Party? Missing in action.

When you look at the election results from this weekend, it is clear that conservatives were highly motivated, and it paid off. In 2019, Republicans gained a near-supermajority in the state legislature, but the number of moderate Republicans who were obsessed with opposing conservative ideas kept the state stuck in the status quo and rotting. I feel far more comfortable with the state's elected Republicans now than I did then because, overall, a lot of good people were elected and re-elected Saturday night, and the state can start to move in the right direction.

One last thought before I finish up this column, though: I hope my friends in the national media don't look too hard for any sort of national plotline to come out of this election. There wasn't much of one. The one national issue that probably resonated more than any other was crime/law and order. That issue is still bubbling under the surface everywhere, and come 2024, that issue will still be present even if the Israel conflict and the Speaker's race are long past.

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