BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — In Louisiana, where there has been a Democratic governor for eight years and Donald Trump won the past two presidential elections, runoffs on Saturday will decide whether Republicans control all five of the Deep South state’s top executive branch positions.
The gubernatorial election was decided in October when Jeff Landry, a Republican backed by former President Trump, won outright and avoided a runoff. Voters will cast ballots this weekend to determine the winners of a slew of other races, including three vacant, statewide offices: attorney general, secretary of state and treasurer.
The election will shape Louisiana’s executive branch of government, where most incumbents didn’t seek reelection and opened the door for new leadership in some of the state’s most powerful positions.
Democrats hope to gain a statewide office in the reliably red state as the GOP tries to retain its current offices. No matter the winners, the state will have its first-ever female attorney general and first female elected to secretary of state.
Although Saturday’s ballot will not have a gubernatorial race, and despite a low early voting turnout, the election has caught the eye of Trump, who on Thursday endorsed the Republican candidates in each of the three Louisiana statewide races.
The three Republicans “are outstanding in every way and have my complete and total endorsement,” Trump said in a statement issued by the Louisiana Republican Party.
Depending on who succeeds Saturday, Trump could have one close ally in the state treasurer’s office: John Fleming, a conservative former congressman who was a member of Trump’s administration. The Republican faces Dustin Granger, a Democrat, who is a financial advisor based in Lake Charles.
The secretary of state race will be closely watched after GOP incumbent Kyle Ardoin declined to seek reelection. The winning candidate will take on the task of replacing Louisiana’s outdated voting machines, which don’t produce the paper ballots critical to ensuring accurate election results.
The lengthy and ongoing replacement process was thrust into the national spotlight after allegations of bid-rigging and when conspiracy theorists, who support Trump’s lies that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, inserted themselves into the conversation.
Candidates Nancy Landry and Gwen Collins-Greenup qualified in a tight race for the runoff in October’s multiparty “jungle” primary, each earning 19% of the vote.
Republican Landry is a former state representative from Lafayette and has worked in Ardoin’s office for four years. Democrat Collins-Greenup is an attorney from Baton Rouge. She advanced to a runoff against Ardoin in 2019, but lost.
Whoever wins will be Louisiana’s first female elected to secretary of state. The first woman to hold the position was Alice Lee Grosjean, who was appointed in 1930 by then-Gov. Huey P. Long after then-Secretary of State James Bailey died suddenly of pneumonia.
Also on the ballot is the race for attorney general, a position currently held by Landry, the governor-elect.
The attorney general represents the state in a variety of legal disputes. However, Landry often made statewide and national headlines in the role, including his support for the state’s legislation banning gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths and a near-total abortion ban with no exceptions for cases of rape and incest.
Liz Murrill, Landry’s chief deputy, is hoping to replace her boss. The Republican has joined Landry in championing conservative causes, including a lawsuit against President Joe Biden’s administration for the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors. Her campaign has focused on a tough-on-crime approach.
Also vying for the position is Lindsey Cheek, a trial attorney who has had significant wins in environmental cases and “Cancer Alley” lawsuits. The Democrat faces an uphill battle, entering the race months after her opponent and trailing far behind in campaign fundraising. Cheek has pledged to advocate for abortion access, while Murrill supports the current ban.
The ballot also includes four proposed constitutional amendments, including extra property tax exemptions for first responders. There also are various local government office races, Board of Elementary and Secondary Education seats and 20 runoffs in the Legislature.
Sara Cline, The Associated Press