Republicans will reclaim the Louisiana governor’s office, CNN projects, with state Attorney General Jeff Landry winning a majority of the vote Saturday in the state’s “jungle primary” and avoiding the need for a November runoff.
Landry hailed the result Saturday night on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, saying, “Thankful beyond belief. I’m ready to get to work for Louisiana!”
His victory comes in a race that represented the GOP’s best chance of winning back a gubernatorial seat this fall after a disappointing 2022 midterms, which saw the party lose a net of two governorships.
Louisiana – much like Kentucky, another deep-red state, where Gov. Andy Beshear is seeking a second term this year – has in recent elections been willing to vote in a Democratic governor.
But Bayou State Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat with some socially conservative positions who was elected in 2015 amid dissatisfaction with outgoing GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal and reelected in 2019, was barred by term limits from running again.
Under Louisiana’s jungle primary system, all contenders ran on the same ballot. The top two finishers, regardless of party, would have advanced to a November runoff if no one had cleared 50% Saturday. But Democratic former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, independent attorney Hunter Lundy and a field of Republican rivals, including state Treasurer John Schroder, former Louisiana Association of Business and Industry President Stephen Waguespack and state Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt, were unable to keep Landry from consolidating GOP voters’ support and winning the governor’s race outright.
Landry, a hard-line conservative who has frequently tussled with Edwards in court, had far outpaced his opponents in fundraising. He had $4.5 million in the bank on September 24, the end of the last campaign finance reporting period.
The state Republican establishment largely coalesced around Landry after several other potential high-profile candidates opted against running. Former President Donald Trump endorsed Landry in May, saying in a video that the attorney general has been “fantastic” and wants to “stop crime.”
Despite Edwards’ two victories, Louisiana remains largely dominated by Republicans. The GOP has won the last four presidential races in the state by between 17 and 20 points, and the last Democratic presidential nominee to carry Louisiana’s electoral votes was Bill Clinton in 1996.
Landry, 52, first won political office in 2010, when he was elected to the US House as part of that year’s tea party wave. He lost his south Louisiana seat in a primary two years later, after the state lost a district in reapportionment and Landry was drawn into the same seat as the more senior Rep. Charles Boustany.
He won the attorney general’s office in 2015, ousting two-term incumbent Buddy Caldwell, who had left the Democratic Party and become a Republican just four years earlier.
As attorney general, Landry has clashed with Edwards over several issues, including a court battle that followed the governor’s efforts to require state contracts to protect LGBT employees from discrimination. He joined Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s ultimately unsuccessful lawsuit seeking to overturn the 2020 presidential election by throwing out Electoral College votes in several swing states.
This story has been updated with additional details.