Jim Beam column: State GOP is in driver’s seat

Published 6:26 am Wednesday, November 22, 2023

When Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry and members of the GOP majority state Legislature take office on Jan. 8, Louisiana will become one of 22 Republican trifectas in this country. That is when one political party holds the governorship and a majority of the state Senate and House. Ballotpedia, the encyclopedia of American politics, said as of Nov. 19, 2023, there were also 17 Democratic trifectas and 11 divided governments where neither party holds trifecta control.

Louisiana also enjoys another distinction. It is one of four trifectas with a supermajority, which is defined as either 60% or two-thirds veto-proof supermajorities. In Louisiana, two-thirds is at least 26 votes in the Senate and 70 votes in the House. The other states are Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina.

The Advocate was right when it said after the primary election that Landry had a mandate “to move Louisiana to the right with a like-minded Legislature.”

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Extremely low voter turnouts were recorded in Louisiana for the Oct. 14 primary and Saturday’s Nov. 18 general election. The turnout in the governor’s race that Landry won in the primary was 36.3%. The turnout Saturday in the secretary of state’s race, first on the ballot, was 22.4%.

Louisiana had 2,970,167 registered voters on Oct. 1. On Nov. 1, it had 2,976,612 registered voters.

Jeff Landry picked up 547,827 votes on Oct. 14 (52% of the total vote cast). So he won the governor’s race with 18.4% (less than one-fifth) of the state’s registered voters.

Republican Nancy Landry won the secretary of state’s race, picking up 446,038 votes, 67% of the total. She won the election with 15% of the state’s registered voters.

Even though both Jeff Landry and Nancy Landry won with low voter turnouts, a Jeff Landry supporter was correct when he said after the primary that his candidate won because Landry’s supporters made a special effort to go to the polls and vote.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards invited Landry and his wife, Sharon, to the governor’s mansion Monday to discuss the gubernatorial transition, life at the mansion, and the day-to-day demands of being governor and the first lady.

Edwards said, “As I have said repeatedly, my administration is committed to a smooth transition and efficient transition of power on behalf of the people of Louisiana.”

Landry said he and his wife had a great meeting with Edwards and the first lady. He said they are a wealth of knowledge and a great resource for him and his wife.

Unfortunately, this exchange of information didn’t happen when Landry’s idol, former President Donald Trump, who endorsed Landry, did just the opposite when Joe Biden was elected president in 2020. The presidential transition was anything but smooth.

“To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the inauguration on Jan. 20,” Trump tweeted. He was the first outgoing president to skip his replacement’s inauguration in more than 150 years, according to CNN.

Jay Dardenne, Edwards’ state commissioner of administration and budget chief, said last month that Landry will inherit a budget surplus of $330 million for the fiscal year that ended on June 30 and state savings accounts that have $3 billion.

Landry will find a state in much better financial shape than Edwards found when he first took office in 2016. He inherited a $2 billion deficit and a higher education system that had received some of the heaviest budget cuts in the nation over the previous eight years.

Higher education is better funded now and teachers have made some gains in pay increases. Edwards and the Legislature made those gains possible.

For Democrats, the general election was another major defeat. The party had three good candidates for statewide offices, but the outcomes weren’t even close.

Some blame the state party leadership for failing to recruit, promote and support candidates financially. As I said after the primary, Democratic strategist James Carville blames the far-left wing of his party for its problems across the country, and particularly in Louisiana.

“I find the left to be just annoying,” Carville said, according to a report on Fox News. “The western far left is habitually the most stupid, naïve people you can imagine.” Although they make up only 10% of the party, Carville said they drag the entire party down.

Finally, some good news. Landry and Edwards had an often fractious political relationship during the past eight years, but The Shreveport Times reported that the Landrys said they admire Edwards and his wife in many ways.