Turning Point Jeff Landry Meeting

Members of the audience listen to Jeff Landry’s speech on Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022, in the Student Union in Baton Rouge, La.

The Louisiana governor’s race is starting to heat up; Attorney General Jeff Landry’s early announcement drew much attention toward the Republican side of the isle, but it’s too early to make any calls.

Not only has Landry already announced but no one on the Democratic side with serious firepower has announced. It remains to be seen if anyone can take the helm and lead the way for the Democrats in this deeply red state.

Democrats have pushed transportation secretary Shawn Wilson to run for governor, according to reporting from WAFB; with his resignation from his current position, according to Gov. John Bel Edwards, it looks like Wilson has fallen victim to peer pressure. It remains to be seen if he will enter the race. 

On the Democrat side there is Daniel Cole, a minister and teacher from Alexandria, according to the Louisiana Radio Network.

For Republicans, this may seem like an absolute slam dunk. After all, Louisiana voted for Donald Trump by a margin of nearly 20 percentage points in 2016 and 2020, according to NBC news. There’s no doubt about it, Louisiana is a Trump state.

This leads to some strange dynamics. In many states, Trump’s antics tend to offend independents and moderate Democrats, yet Louisiana's heavy Republican leaning welcomes them. With such a large blue-collar population, many of whom were disaffected by the lack of profits from the energy sector over the past decade according to nonprofit Environmental Working Group, this state is a firm set up for a bombastic nationalist Republican like Landry.

For a state so deeply Republican, the culture war issues, such as what books are in libraries, that Landry has been pursuing, according to WBRZ, are likely to be a winning issue.

However, as the history of Louisiana governors indicates, how we vote in the national election doesn’t dictate how we vote in the governor’s race. The 1996 election cycle was the last time we voted over 50% for a democratic presidential prospect in the national election, according to 270towin.com. Meanwhile, between then and now, we’ve had four governors, two Democrats and two Republicans.

Noticeably, our current governor, John Bel Edwards, is a pro-life Democrat, yet he signed Louisiana’s 2022 bill banning abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest, according to NBC news.

This very factor throws a wrench into any Democrats’ platform moving forward since, according to polling data from the New York Times, 59% of Louisianans believe that abortion should be illegal in most cases.

For Democrats, the outlook is bleak. Supporting any of the hardline anti-gun, anti-abortion or “woke” mantras of the national Democratic Party is a losing strategy. The only way for a Democrat to win here is to lean on the old-school version of a southern Democrat by supporting blue-collar workers and the classically liberal version of freedom, not the authoritarian stance that the national Democratic Party has taken.

For Republicans, the case looks fairly good, but it’s much too soon to guess. Landry seems like the obvious bet, particularly with both of our U.S. Senators dropping out of the race. However, there is a dark horse candidate in the mix that seems to be one to look out for: Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt; a Slidell native and a former engineer and Shell executive, according to her website.  

Despite the assumptions that Louisiana's red politics promotes sexist behavior, due to all the nasty Republicans, we have elected a woman before, and a Democrat at that, so that theory seems moot. 

Hewitt seems to be the only person with any differentiating characteristics amid the crowd of Republicans. Being a woman, she checks the identity politics box that many Democrats look for. She checks the blue-collar box with her Shell experience, and she’s a bonafide politician with years of experience within Louisiana’s system. Of all the characters to watch, Hewitt seems like the best dark horse.

Brandon Poulter is a 27-year-old political science and psychology major from Baton Rouge.

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