Jim Beam column:Conservatism was big winner

Published 6:40 am Wednesday, October 25, 2023

How did Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry win the Louisiana governor’s race in the primary? Ask a half-dozen people that question and the odds are you will get six different answers.

Laura Cannizzaro Rodrigue expressed her opinions in a letter to The Advocate. She is a former assistant district attorney in New Orleans and an anti-crime activist who supported Landry as a volunteer campaign worker.

“We are done with ‘feel good’ candidates who accomplish nothing,” Rodrigue said. “We demand leaders who will speak up and fight for us.”

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Rodrigue then placed some of the crime blame on New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration and on Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams. Democrats helped by failing to vote, she said.

Tyler Bridges of The Advocate said, “Catching the other potential candidates napping to win the party endorsement was only the first of a series of key moves made by Landry on his way to the Governor’s Mansion.”

Bridges said Landry’s campaign used TV ads to soften its candidate’s firebrand image and limited the chances his opponents could attack him. Landry made only one of the campaign debates.

“Together, Landry’s moves turned him into a fast-charging train that no other candidate could stop. He led the race from start to finish,” Bridges said.

James Finn of The Advocate said, “The lowest voter turnout for a Louisiana governor’s election in a dozen years yielded a meltdown for Democrats … as Landry sailed to victory in Saturday’s primary contest without needing a runoff.”

Finn said Democrats failed to get Shawn Wilson into the runoff because of  “tepid enthusiasm” for their candidate “and surprisingly strong support for Landry among those Black Louisianans who did go to the polls.”

The Advocate in an editorial titled, “La. Democrats are due for a reckoning,” said, “In fact, it might be one more reason to wonder why the present leadership should remain on the job.”

The editorial quoted John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge-based pollster, who said, “I think that in Louisiana, Democrats are in serious trouble.”

The newspaper also quoted Melissa Flournoy, a longtime liberal activist and former Democratic state lawmaker from Shreveport, who said, “There is a total lack of energy, hope or excitement across the board. It’s like the election that didn’t happen.”

Wilson said, Everybody who is Democratically aligned could have done more. The undecideds on the Republican side broke to Jeff. The undecideds on the Democratic side chose not to vote.

I thought Rodrigue was way off by crediting crime for Landry’s victory. Crime was a major complaint of voters but none of the candidates, including Landry, expressed in detail exactly how they were going to fight crime.

Otherwise, the reasons listed by others — poor turnout and lack of enthusiasm for other candidates — definitely helped Landry. However, my vote for the best explanation for why Landry won in the primary goes to Ron Faucheux, a nonpartisan political analyst, pollster, and writer based in Louisiana.

Faucheux is a former Louisiana state representative whose columns appear in The Advocate. The headline on his Oct. 21 column said it all when it said, “Ron Landry’s victory is driven by national trends, not state governance.”

Republican conservatism was the biggest winner in the Oct. 14 primary, Faucheux said. He added that Republican gubernatorial candidates combined won 66% of the votes cast.

“That’s a wipeout — especially in a state that elected Democratic governors in three of the previous five elections,” he said.

Then came Faucheux’s best explanation for Landry’s first primary victory:

“Landry’s efforts as attorney general to sidetrack the Biden administration, using the legal system to halt liberal social and economic initiatives, put him squarely on the side of most Louisiana Republicans and conservative independents. While his primary opponents in the governor’s race were focused on plans for state government, Landry generally avoided that debate and, instead, rode the national wave of conservative anger against progressive government.”

Former President Donald Trump supported Landry and Trump picked up 58% of the vote in Louisiana in both 2016 when he won and in 2020 when he lost.

Louisiana’s Democratic and Republican conservatives still like Trump and they showed on Oct. 14 they think Landry is a good carbon copy. And they gave him a strong GOP Legislature to govern this state for the next four years.

Some have said since the election, “Jim, you will have a lot to write about now.” The late-Gov. Edwin W. Edwards reportedly said I had written over 80 critical articles about him during his four terms. Landry could be just as controversial.