WASHINGTON (AP) — The race to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards tops the list of contests Louisiana voters will decide this Saturday in one of only three gubernatorial elections scheduled for this year.
Fourteen candidates are competing to succeed Edwards under a unique primary system in which all candidates appear together on the same ballot regardless of party affiliation. If no candidate receives a majority in Saturday’s election, the top two vote-getters will advance to the general election on Nov. 18.
Republican hopefuls include state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, state Attorney General Jeff Landry, state Treasurer John Schroder, former business trade association CEO Stephen Waguespack, and three others. A Republican candidate, state Rep. Richard Nelson, withdrew from the race in September and endorsed Landry but will remain on the ballot per state election laws. Former state Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson is the only major Democratic candidate vying for the seat, while Lake Charles-based attorney Hunter Lundy is one of five independents.
Landry, who won an early endorsement from the state GOP last year and from former President Donald Trump in May, has enjoyed a sizable cash and fundraising advantage over the rest of the field throughout the race. He had $9.1 million in the bank in July and $6.7 million in September. By comparison, Schroder, the field’s other statewide officeholder, was the second-best-funded candidate but had only a quarter of Landry’s warchest in both instances.
With Edwards not on the ballot, the GOP hopes to reclaim the governor’s office in a state Trump carried twice with 58% of the vote. But with Republicans splitting the vote among seven active candidates, the winner may not be known until a runoff in November.
If Republicans maintain their supermajorities in both chambers of the state Legislature, a win in the gubernatorial race would give them an essential lock on state policymaking.
Also on Saturday’s ballot are statewide contests for lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general and treasurer and four ballot measures. In addition, all state Senate and House races are up for grabs, as well as seats on the state school board.
Here’s a look at what to expect on election night:
The Louisiana state primary will be held Saturday. Polls close at 8 p.m. local time (CT), which is 9 p.m. ET.
WHAT’S ON THE BALLOT
The Associated Press will provide coverage for 91 contested races in Louisiana, including five statewide offices, four statewide ballot measures, six regional races for the state board of education, 19 state Senate seats, and 57 state House seats. Although all 39 Senate seats and 105 House seats are up for election this year, many of those contests feature only one candidate.
WHO GETS TO VOTE
All registered voters may participate in the primary on Saturday.
Despite Louisiana’s pro-Republican trend over the last 30 years, Edwards won the governorship twice, in 2015 with 56% of the vote and in 2019 with 51% of the vote. His victories provide a blueprint for other Democrats hoping to win statewide in Louisiana.
Edwards carved a path to victory by winning big in Democratic strongholds like the greater New Orleans metro area, reducing the vote deficit in Republican areas like central Louisiana, and winning over 14 parishes that presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden lost.
Neither Clinton nor Biden performed particularly well in Louisiana in the presidential elections: In 2016, Clinton won 38% of the statewide vote; in 2020, Biden won 40% of the statewide vote. But they both won the same 10 parishes: Caddo in northwest Louisiana; East Carroll, Madison and Tensas on the northeastern border; and six parishes near Baton Rouge and New Orleans in southeast Louisiana. Edwards received 72% collectively in these 10 parishes in his 2019 reelection bid, outperforming Clinton’s 61% in 2016 and Biden’s 64% in 2020.
Edwards considerably outperformed Clinton and Biden in every geographic region of the state.
The AP does not make projections and will declare a winner only when it’s determined there is no scenario that would allow the trailing candidates to close the gap. If a race has not been called, the AP will continue to cover any newsworthy developments, such as candidate concessions or declarations of victory. In doing so, the AP will make clear that it has not yet declared a winner and explain why.
One potential delay in reporting final winners on Saturday may be determining whether a candidate has cleared the threshold needed to avoid a November runoff. Races in which the leading candidate hovers near the 50% mark might not be called until additional votes are counted, even if the front-runner leads the rest of the field by a significant margin.
In the 2019 Louisiana primary, 33 of the 164 races tabulated by the AP advanced to a runoff. These included the races for governor, secretary of state, five state Senate races and 24 state House races.
There are no automatic recounts in Louisiana, but a candidate may request and pay for a recount of absentee and early votes. The AP may declare a winner in a race that is subject to a recount if it can determine the lead is too large for a recount or legal challenge to change the outcome.
WHAT DO TURNOUT AND ADVANCE VOTE LOOK LIKE
As of Oct. 1, there were 2,970,167 voters registered in Louisiana. Of those, 38.7% were Democrats, 33.8% were Republicans and 27.4% were registered with other parties.
Turnout for the 2019 gubernatorial primary in Louisiana was 46%.
As of Friday morning, a total of 363,195 voters had cast ballots before Election Day, 44% by Republicans, 41% by Democrats and 15% by members of other parties.
In the 2019 gubernatorial primary, 21% of voters cast ballots before Election Day.
The AP’s preliminary turnout estimate as of Tuesday is roughly 1.3 million votes, based on the turnout of previous statewide contests and advance voting ballots received to date.
HOW LONG DOES VOTE-COUNTING USUALLY TAKE?
In the 2022 U.S. Senate primary in Louisiana, the AP first reported results at 9:25 p.m. ET, or 25 minutes after polls closed. The election night tabulation ended at 2:11 a.m. ET with 99.9% of total votes counted.
Robert Yoon, The Associated Press