Jeff Landry surges to outright win in Louisiana governor’s race

First non-incumbent to claim seat in primary since Bobby Jindal in 2007

By: - October 14, 2023 10:22 pm
Louisiana Gov.-elect Jeff Landry greets supporters Oct. 14, 2023, at The Ballroom in Broussard after claiming an outright win in the primary election.

Louisiana Gov.-elect has endorsed the Republicans still facing a runoff election for statewide office Nov. 18. (Travis Gauthier for Louisiana Illuminator)

Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry will become Louisiana’s 57th governor, claiming the seat outright in Saturday’s primary in a field with three other GOP candidates, a conservative independent and a lone Democrat who was expected to force a runoff.

“Tonight’s election was historic. …Tonight’s election says we are united,” Landry told a crowd of supporters at the victory party in Broussard.

Landry received 52% of the statewide vote. His early endorsement from the Louisiana GOP and a hefty fundraising advantage kept him well ahead of the competition, with whom Landry only participated once in a series of televised debates.

“I think the state has decided to make a turn to the right politically,” Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich said. “It’s time for a change.”

Shawn Wilson, the lone Democrat in the race, drew 26% of the vote — a paltry figure when considering that Democrats comprise roughly 40% of Louisiana’s electorate. Louisiana’s open primary format results in a runoff between the top two finishers unless a candidate receives 50% or more of the vote.

“There are no regrets in the Wilson household,” the Algiers native told supporters at the Westin Hotel in New Orleans.

Wilson’s chances of making a runoff with Landry hinged on coaxing enough turnout in the state’s urban centers. Heading into Election Day, a small segment of Republicans predicted Landry could claim the governor’s seat in the primary, perhaps serving as a deterrent to Democrats and supporters in the rest of the field. 

Democrat Shawn Wilson addresses supporters Oct. 14, 2023, at the Westin Hotel in New Orleans after conceding defeat to Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry.
Surrounded by his family, Democrat Shawn Wilson addresses supporters Oct. 14, 2023, at the Westin Hotel in New Orleans after conceding defeat to Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry. (Jonathan Peterson for Louisiana Illuminator)

A spokesperson for Wilson said he called Landry to concede once the governor-elect completed his victory speech. Wilson said he asked Landry to keep Medicaid expansion in Louisiana and raise teacher pay. Landry has previously said he would maintain status quo with Medicaid, which Gov. John Bel Edwards expanded on his first day in office in 2016.

“…While we might not understand everything that Jeff Landry wants to do as governor, I believe he wants to try to do the right thing, and it’s our job as Louisianians to make that happen,” Wilson said.

Stephen Waguespack, who entered the contest pitched as the Republican alternative to Landry, finished in third place. The former leader of the state’s top business organization failed to put a dent in the attorney general’s armor. 

In a short concession speech, Waguespack said he was “truly humbled” by the experience of running for governor. Although polls projected Waguespack to capture roughly 9-11% of the vote, the former business lobbyist netted just 6% with his strongest showings in East Baton Rouge and Ascension parishes.

Stephen Waguespack, a Republican candidate for Louisiana governor, listens to a supporter during his Election Night party
Stephen Waguespack, a Republican candidate for Louisiana governor, listens to a supporter during his Election Night party Oct. 14, 2023, in Baton Rouge. Waguespack finished a distant third in the primary election. (Matthew Perschall for Louisiana Illuminator)

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Louisiana, who made an appearance at Waguespack’s watch party Saturday evening, said he thought Waguespack performed quite well given his late entry into the race. The two Baton Rouge natives have been close friends since they worked together as aides to then-Gov. Bobby Jindal. It was Graves’ decision not to run that prompted Waguespack to enter the race

“In the areas where he was able to get in front of people, he over-performed,” Graves said of Waguespack, who declined to offer additional comments when asked, saying he wasn’t ready to do a “post-mortem” analysis of his campaign.

Treasurer John Schroder, despite an early-and-often approach to television ads, received 5% of the vote for fourth place. His campaign centered on ending corruption in state government, yet he took few direct swings at Landry, whose campaign spending and hiring of migrant labor for his private business have come under question.

Trial attorney Hunter Lundy, who self-financed his gubernatorial campaign as an independent, was fifth with 5%. He sought to occupy a middle ground of contrasts, with calls to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for pollution and coastal land loss while also holding far right views on transgender issues and abortion.

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt, R-Slidell, placed seventh with 2% of the vote in her first bid for statewide elected office. Longshot Democrat Daniel Cole managed to outperform her.

Hewitt struggled to raise campaign dollars in the crowded Republican field, and she didn’t see corresponding industry support for her strong pro oil and gas views.

Landry will be sworn into office in January, replacing two-term Gov. John Bel Edwards, the lone Democratic governor in the Deep South.

Reporters Julie O’Donoghue, Piper Hutchinson and Wesley Muller contributed to this story.


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Louisiana Illuminator
Louisiana Illuminator

The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization driven by its mission to cast light on how decisions are made in Baton Rouge and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians, particularly those who are poor or otherwise marginalized.