On October 14, voters in Louisiana will head to the polls to pick a new governor. Incumbent Gov. John Bel Edwards, a social conservative on issues like abortion, is the rare Democrat who has been able to scrape out victories in a state that has shifted rapidly against his party. Because Edwards is term-limited (he was narrowly re-elected in 2019), most analysts expect Republicans to flip the governor’s mansion and secure a trifecta in Baton Rouge.
Louisiana’s electoral system is unusual: the state uses what’s known as a “jungle primary,” where all candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of partisan affiliation. If one candidate secures over 50% of the vote on October 14, they are automatically elected governor; if no one receives an absolute majority, then a top-two runoff will be held on November 18. (Edwards won both of his races in runoffs against a Republican candidate, after finishing first in the jungle primary.)
Louisiana Democrats have coalesced around the candidacy of Shawn Wilson, Edwards’ former transportation secretary (he resigned from the cabinet in March of 2023 to focus on his gubernatorial campaign). Edwards, the Louisiana Democratic Party, and Troy Carter, the sole Democrat in Louisiana’s congressional delegation, have endorsed Wilson. Danny Cole, a Pentecostal pastor and special education teacher, is also running as a Democrat but lacks any notable institutional support.
The GOP field is much wider: Jeff Landry (the state attorney general), John Schroder (the state treasurer), and Sharon Hewitt (the senate majority leader) are all running, along with four other minor candidates. Landry is the heavy favorite to finish first in the primary, having secured endorsements from Donald Trump and the Louisiana Republican Party; he also leads Wilson by a wide margin in publicly available polling.
That said, surveys suggest that the race will likely go to a runoff between Landry and Wilson: no poll has the attorney general above 40%, and the sheer size of the field makes it unlikely that he will secure an absolute majority in the first round.
Landry would be heavily favored in a runoff. He has a large cash advantage: according to data from AdImpact Politics, Republicans have spent $25 million on ads (of which $8.5 million comes from Landry’s campaign) compared to $700,000 from Democrats. (For context, in 2019, Democratic campaigns and PACs spent $15.5 million while the GOP spent $16.5 million.)
The Dobbs ruling also provides a tailwind for Republicans. Louisiana is a very religious state with a large Catholic population. According to an analysis of survey results by Split Ticket, Louisiana is net 20 points pro-life, and is one of the few states that is more pro-life than presidential margins would suggest; this implies that the increasing salience of abortion gives Republicans room to grow in the Pelican State. Even former Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards was vehemently pro-life, allowing him to vastly overperform partisan fundamentals in this deep-red state. While Wilson says he is personally pro-life, he removed the phrase “pro-life” from his official campaign website recently, instead saying a woman’s healthcare decisions should be only between her and her doctor.
Finally, although it won’t be decisive given the state’s partisanship, racial polarization will play a role in the election: Wilson is Black and Landry is white. According to exit polling in 2020, Biden won Black voters in the state 88-10, while Trump carried white voters 77-22. Landry’s campaign has been accused of using dog-whistle rhetoric, and he has worked to take powers away from local elected officials in majority-Black areas and centralize them in the attorney general’s office.
Regarding expected policy outcomes, little is expected to shift. Louisiana already expanded Medicaid and enacted a strict abortion ban (though this law is being contested in court) under Edwards. Since March of 2023, Republicans have held a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature. A Landry administration is likely to pursue further efforts to concentrate political power in Baton Rouge, at the expense of local governments in predominantly Democratic areas, like what Ron DeSantis has done in Florida. But fundamentally, the policy status quo in Louisiana is already quite conservative, as is the electorate — and that is unlikely to change very much.
Polls close at 8pm Central time. Decision Desk HQ will have the results here as they become available.