Louisiana GOP eyes Governor’s mansion, and it may be their’s to lose

Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards, a moderate Democrat who is pro-gun and supports abortion restrictions, is term-limited out of office this year, leaving a wide open lane for the GOP to reclaim the Governor’s mansion and solidify the state as entirely red. 

Democrats have yet to identify a successor to Edwards and, when they do, it’s likely only a candidate in Edwards’ mold would be able to wage a competitive battle for the seat. 

Republicans, meanwhile, don’t have the crowded field some had expected and have seemingly rallied around just one candidate, with U.S. Sens. Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy opting instead to run for re-election. That leaves state Attorney General Jeff Landry as the defacto frontrunner in the race.

Landry, a former U.S. Representative, is aligned with the Tea Party wing of the GOP, leaving open the question as to whether a more moderate Republican may join the race. Louisiana is an open primary state, meaning candidates all appear on the same Primary ballot. If no candidate exceeds 50% of the vote, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, move onto a runoff, which could pit two Republicans against one another. 

For now though, Landry is in good position for a fairly easy race. He had $5 million banked as of the end of 2022, with another $1.5 million in an affiliated PAC, and has secured support from the state GOP and several members of the state’s conservative congressional delegation. 

His intra-party opposition is weak so far, with state Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt and state Rep. Richard Nelson all running. Of the trio, Schroder perhaps has the best shot as a more moderate alternative to Landry.

And on the GOP side there is still the question of whether Rep. Garret Graves, another moderate Republican, will jump into the race. If that happens, he would have the donor base to compete and would likely present the biggest threat to Landry’s campaign. Already, the state GOP has threatened that Graves would be making “a terrible mistake” if he jumped into the race and urged support for Landry.

While Democrats have yet to identify a successor in the Governor’s mansion, they still have options. That includes Department of Transportation and Development Secretary Shawn Wilson, an Edwards appointee. Other potential candidates include Democratic state party Chair Katie Bernhardt and East Baton Rouge District Attorney Hillar Moore. 

Candidates have until Aug. 10 to file for the race, but time is ticking for serious contenders to get their campaigns rolling. 

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