Republicans flip Louisiana governor’s mansion

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry is projected to win the state’s gubernatorial race, according to The Associated Press, handing Republicans control of the top executive office there for the first time since 2016.

Landry competed alongside more than a dozen other people in the jungle primary, in which candidates appear on the same ballot regardless of party. If no candidate received more than 50 percent of the vote, the race would have headed to a runoff between the top two vote-getters. But because Landry won more than half the vote as of late Saturday night, he is projected to win the race outright.

While Landry, a hard-right Republican with the backing of former President Trump, was widely viewed as the favorite heading into Saturday, many political observers expected him to face off against Democrat Shawn Wilson for a second round of voting in November.

His strong showing on Saturday gives the GOP — and in particular the party’s conservative, populist wing — a sense of momentum heading into November, where the party is looking to win in two other red-state gubernatorial elections, in Kentucky and Mississippi.

Landry will succeed Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only sitting Democratic governor in the Deep South, who is term-limited.

Wilson, Landry’s chief opponent and a former Transportation secretary, was running to become Louisiana’s first Black statewide elected official since Reconstruction. But observers acknowledged the challenges he faced, especially in regards to voter turnout.

“Democratic turnout has been weak,” Louisiana-based pollster John Couvillon told earlier this week.

“Normally, early voting tends to favor Democrats, and Republicans as of Saturday night cumulatively have a plus-5 lead,” said Couvillon, who usually works with Republicans.

Chief among the warning signs was low turnout among Black voters, a key constituency for Democrats in the Pelican State.

Cliff Albright, co-founder of Black Voters Matter, criticized members of the Democratic Party for not putting more resources into the race.

“There’s really no discussion, and more importantly, very little lack of investment in voter mobilization,” Albright told. “That includes the party itself not putting a lot into this election, which, unfortunately, is a pattern that we’re seeing in Southern states in general and particularly in states that have Black candidates.”