BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Attorney General Jeff Landry, a Republican backed by former President Donald Trump, has won the Louisiana governor’s race, holding off a crowded field of candidates.
The win is a major victory for the GOP as they reclaim the governor’s mansion for the first time in eight years. Landry will replace current Gov. John Bel Edwards, who was unable to seek reelection due to consecutive term limits. Edwards is the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.
“Today’s election says that our state is united,” Landry said during his victory speech Saturday night. “It’s a wake up call and it’s a message that everyone should hear loud and clear, that we the people in this state are going to expect more out of our government from here on out.”
By garnering more than half of the votes, Landry avoided an expected runoff under the state’s “jungle primary” system. The last time there wasn’t a gubernatorial runoff in Louisiana was in 2011 and 2007, when Bobby Jindal, a Republican, won the state’s top position.
The governor-elect, who celebrated with supporters during a watch party in Broussard, Louisiana, described the election as “historic.”
Landry, 52, has raised the profile of attorney general since taking office in 2016. He has used his office to champion conservative policy positions. More recently, Landry has been in the spotlight over his involvement and staunch support of Louisiana laws that have drawn much debate, including banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths, the state’s near-total abortion ban that doesn’t have exceptions for cases of rape and incest, and a law restricting youths’ access to “sexually explicit material” in libraries, which opponents fear will target LGBTQ+ books.
Landry has repeatedly clashed with Edwards over matters in the state, including LGBTQ rights, state finances and the death penalty. However the Republican has also repeatedly put Louisiana in national fights, including over President Joe Biden’s policies that limit oil and gas production and COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Landry spent two years on Capitol Hill, beginning in 2011, where he represented Louisiana’s 3rd U.S. Congressional District. Prior to his political career, Landry served 11 years in the Louisiana Army National Guard, was a local police officer, sheriff’s deputy and attorney.
During the gubernatorial election season, Landry had long been considered the early frontrunner, winning the endorsement of high profile Republicans — Trump and U.S. Rep Steve Scalise — and a controversial early endorsement from the state GOP. In addition, Landry has enjoyed a sizable fundraising advantage over the rest of the field throughout the race.
Landry has made clear that one of his top priorities as governor would be addressing crime in urban areas. The Republican has pushed a tough-on-crime rhetoric, calling for more “transparency” in the justice system and continuing to support capital punishment. Louisiana has the nation’s second-highest murder rate per capita.
Along the campaign trail, Landry faced political attacks from opponents on social media and in interviews, calling him a bully and making accusations of backroom deals to gain support. He also faced scrutiny for skipping all but one of the major-televised debates.
Among other gubernatorial candidates on the ballot were GOP state Sen. Sharon Hewitt; Hunter Lundy, a Lake Charles-based attorney running as an independent; Republican state Treasurer John Schroder; Stephen Waguespack, the Republican former head of a powerful business group and former senior aide to then-Gov. Jindal; and Shawn Wilson, the former head of Louisiana’s Transportation and Development Department and sole major Democratic candidate.
Wilson, who was the runner-up, said during his concession speech that he had called Landry to congratulate him on his victory. The Democrat said during their phone call, he asked the governor-elect to keep Medicaid expansion, increase teacher pay and “educate our children the way they need to be educated.”
“The citizens of Louisiana spoke, or didn’t speak, and made a decision,” Wilson said.
Also on Saturday’s ballot were five other statewide contests and four ballot measures.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser won reelection Saturday night, but other races won’t be decided until November.
One closely watched race is for attorney general, which holds the highest legal authority in the state’s executive branch. Liz Baker Murrill, a Republican who currently works at the Attorney General’s Office and Lindsey Cheek, a Democrat and trial attorney, have advanced to a November runoff.
Also advancing to a runoff in the state treasurer race is John Fleming, Republican, and Dustin Granger, Democrat.
In the secretary of state race, First Assistant Secretary of State Nancy Landry, a Republican, and Gwen Collins-Greenup, a Democrat and attorney, will advance to a runoff. The winner in November will have the task of replacing Louisiana’s outdated voting machines, which do not produce the paper ballots critical to ensuring accurate election results.
There are hundreds of additional localized races, including all 39 Senate seats and 105 House seats, however a significant number of incumbents are running unopposed.