Candidates jump into Louisiana elections, and many races have no incumbent

The floodgates have opened in Louisiana’s election season as candidates have flocked to register for several highly anticipated races
Election Day in Louisiana is Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.
Election Day in Louisiana is Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023.
Published: Aug. 9, 2023 at 11:58 AM CDT
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BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — The floodgates have opened in Louisiana’s election season.

Candidates flocked to register Tuesday for several highly anticipated races with no incumbent on the ballot this year, including governor, secretary of state and attorney general.

An crowded field of Louisiana residents — current and former politicians, business owners, lawyers and people who've never held office but want to see change in their state — will qualify this week for the Oct. 14 election.

Louisiana is the only state in the Deep South with a Democrat for governor, a rarity among conservative states. But Gov. John Bel Edwards is unable to seek reelection due to term limits — opening up a huge opportunity for Republicans to take control of the state’s highest office. Louisiana is one of three states with a gubernatorial election this fall, along with Mississippi and Kentucky.

So far, the candidates have been relatively civil. Whether that remains the case has yet to be seen.

“The Bible teaches us to turn the other cheek — and I’ve got two,” said Democrat Shawn Wilson, when asked Tuesday about possible political attacks. “After that, we will fight if we have to fight.”

Wilson, the former head of the Transportation and Development Department, is expected to be the party's sole prominent candidate for governor. That's because Democrats have rallied in recent years behind one blue candidate, instead of splitting votes, to push them through the state's so-called “jungle primary” and into a runoff.

Under Louisiana’s open primary system, all candidates — regardless of party affiliation — run against one another on the same ballot in October. If no candidate tops 50% in that primary, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election on Nov. 18.

Also running for governor are Republican State Treasurer John Schroder and Lake Charles-based attorney Hunter Lundy, who's running as an independent.

Four other well-known Republicans are expected to join the race later this week. They are Attorney General Jeff Landry, who's been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, state Rep. Richard Nelson, and Stephen Waguespack, who was chief of staff to former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Schroder, the state treasurer, highlighted his political experience and stressed that Louisiana’s Capitol is full of “corruption” and “cronyism,” where politicians “enjoy all the thrills and frills even though our laws don’t allow it.”

“If you want the same transactional politics,” Schroder told reporters, “then vote for the other guys. But if you want change ... then I’m your guy.”

Another closely watched race will be for secretary of state. Republican Kyle Ardoin currently holds the position, but won't be seeking reelection.

Whoever is elected will take on the crucial task of buying new voting machines. Ardoin has faced increasing scrutiny while supervising an effort to replace Louisiana’s outdated voting machines, which don't produce the paper ballots that are critical to ensuring accurate election results.

The replacement process was thrust into the national spotlight after allegations of bid-rigging. Voting machine companies claimed favoritism, and conspiracy theorists — who support Trump's lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen — inserted themselves into the conversation. Conspiracists urged Ardoin to ditch voting machines altogether and instead rely on hand-counted paper ballots.

Qualifying for the secretary of state’s race Tuesday were three Republicans: House Speaker Clay Schexnayder, First Assistant Secretary of State Nancy Landry, and Mike Francis, a public service commissioner and former chair of the state GOP.

Gwen Collins-Greenup, a Democrat and attorney, also entered the race. All four say they are against hand-counting paper ballots.

Also running for the position is grocery store owner Brandon Trosclair, who has aligned himself with a movement of conservative activists who believe there's been widespread fraud in Louisiana’s elections. The Republican supports hand-counted paper ballots — a notion that election clerks have spoken against as it would involve counting tens of thousands of ballots in many parishes.

Among other candidates who qualified Tuesday were: Republican state Rep. John Stefanski, who is running for attorney general; Tim Temple a former insurance executive who is running for insurance commissioner of the state; Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who is seeking reelection; Republican state Rep. Scott McKnight, who is running for treasurer; and John Fleming, a former U.S. Representative for Louisiana who served in the Trump administration, is also running for treasurer.