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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Jeff Landry, a hard-line Republican, is elected governor of Louisiana

Jeff Landry at a campaign event on Wednesday.

By Emily Cochrane

Jeff Landry, the Louisiana attorney general and a hard-line conservative, trounced a crowded field of candidates Saturday to become the state’s next governor, cementing Republican control of Louisiana after eight years of divided government.

Landry, a brash conservative who repeatedly fought Democratic policies in court as Louisiana’s top lawyer, will replace Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat limited to two terms. In Saturday’s “jungle primary,” which pits candidates of any political affiliation against one other, Landry stunned many political watchers by winning more than 50% of the vote and eliminating the need for a runoff.

His victory guarantees a far-right government for Louisiana — a state where Republicans have controlled the Legislature for a decade but had faced resistance from Edwards, who vetoed several bills, including ones targeting LGBTQ people. It comes at a moment when the state is confronting soaring insurance rates and dwindling population numbers.

The wide field of more than a dozen candidates, which included Democrats, independents and rival Republicans, had set steep odds for Landry to win outright. Had no candidate secured a simple majority, the two top vote-getters would have faced off in a runoff election next month.

But Landry won with 51.6% of the vote, followed by Shawn Wilson, a Democrat and the state’s former transportation secretary, who secured 25.9% of the vote. None of the other candidates — a group that included Stephen Waguespack, a top business lobbyist and aide to former Gov. Bobby Jindal; John Schroder, the state treasurer; and Sharon Hewitt, a state senator — reached double digits.

Landry, a confrontational litigator and politician, had won over much of the Republican base by battling Edwards and the Biden administration in court over pandemic vaccine mandates, efforts to work with social media companies to limit the spread of misleading or false theories, and environmental regulations.

He served as a sheriff’s deputy and two-term lawmaker in the House of Representatives as the Tea Party took hold in U.S. government. But it was over the past eight years as attorney general where Landry flexed the power of a political office and his particular style of combative conservatism.

During the coronavirus pandemic, he challenged vaccine and mask mandates on the local and national level for health care workers, students and federal workers, voicing skepticism even as the vaccines were proven to help stem the spread and toll of the virus.

He has also helped lead lawsuits that resulted in a federal judge restricting the Biden administration from speaking with social media companies and saw the Supreme Court rein in the administration’s ability to reduce carbon emissions.

And he has defended some of Louisiana’s more controversial decisions, including a congressional map that Black voters have challenged as a violation of a landmark civil rights law and its abortion law, one of the strictest in the nation. (At one point, Landry openly said that critics could leave the state.)

During his campaign for governor, Landry vowed to address crime in the state, though critics observed that countering crime fell under the jurisdiction of the attorney general. He also pledged to stop the “woke agenda” in Louisiana schools and to support the rights of parents to make decisions for their children, a nod to a push he championed to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender children and literature deemed to be sexually explicit.

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