A projection screen shows Gov.-elect Jeff Landry addressing supporters Oct. 13, 2023, at The Ballroom in Broussard after winning his election outright. (Travis Gauthier for Louisiana Illuminator)
Attorney General Jeff Landry’s stunning win in the governor’s race Saturday overwhelmed most other election news, but a few notable trends also emerged.
Landry was not the only person with a surprising election victory this weekend.
A handful of ultraconservative Louisiana Senate candidates also won their races outright and avoided November runoff elections.
State Reps. Rick Edmonds of Baton Rouge, Valarie Hodges of Denham Springs, Blake Miguez of Erath and Alan Seabaugh of Shreveport each claimed open Senate seats in the Legislature Saturday over fellow Republicans who are more moderate. Incumbent Sen. Stewart Cathey, R-Monroe, also beat a GOP challenger who was perceived to be more middle-of-the-road.
Hodges, Miguez and Seabaugh are among the most conservative members of the Louisiana House and have often challenged Republican legislative leadership on spending issues. They were among the 19 legislators who wanted the state to spend hundreds of millions of dollars less on roads and other infrastructure projects this year in order to limit government spending.
Republicans advancing to the runoff stages of the attorney general and treasurer races — Liz Murrill and John Fleming, respectively — were also the more conservative options in their primary races. They beat out other, more middle-of-the-road GOP candidates to head into the next stage of the election against Democrats on Nov. 18.
The right turn in the state Senate should make life easier for Landry as governor. An ultraconservative himself, he should have fewer disputes with lawmakers overall because more of them will be aligned with his political ideology.
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Louisiana has not had a woman in statewide office since early 2015, when former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu left office after losing her reelection to Bill Cassidy.
But in 2024, women will hold at least two of Louisiana’s nine elected statewide offices no matter what happens in the runoffs.
Murrill and Democrat Lindsey Cheek have made it into the runoff for attorney general, and Republican Nancy Landry and Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup will face each other in the secretary of state’s runoff.
Murrill and Nancy Landry, as Republicans, are considered the favorites to win the races, even though Louisiana has never had two Republican women serving in statewide office at the same time.
The last time Louisiana had two women in statewide office at all was the beginning of 2008, right before former Gov. Kathleen Blanco stepped down and Landrieu was still in Congress.
Low voter turnout
Voter turnout was even lower than political experts and outgoing Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin predicted it would be for this election cycle.
Unofficial returns indicated statewide turnout of registered voters in the governor’s race was 35.8%. Ardoin’s office predicted between 42% and 46%, and political consultant and pollster John Couvillon thought it would come in between 38% and 40%.
Registered voter turnout dropped by 10 points from the last gubernatorial primary election in 2019, when it was 45.9%. Gov. John Bel Edwards received 625,970 votes in that election, but only 47% of the overall vote. By comparison, Jeff Landry won the governor’s race Saturday with 547,828 votes and 52% of the overall vote.
The decrease was more dramatic in Democratic and Black voter strongholds. Orleans Parish voter turnout was nearly 12 points higher, 38.7% in 2019 compared with 27% this weekend. East Baton Rouge Parish voter turnout dropped even more dramatically, by about 13 points from 48% in 2019 to 34.9%.
Low Democratic voter turnout is thought to have benefitted Landry and other conservative candidates, since those constituents are the least likely to vote for far-right Republicans.
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