DemDaily: Wilson Launches Louisiana Gubernatorial

March 8, 2023

The Lousiana Governor's race is officially underway with the entrance on Monday of Louisiana Secretary of Transportation Shawn Wilson, the first Democrat to announce a bid to succeed two-term Governor John Bel Edwards (D), who is term-limited.

Three states will hold gubernatorial races in 2023: Louisiana, Kentucky and Mississippi. In addition, there are legislative, mayoral, municipal, judicial, and/or local elections up in 2023 in close to 40 states.

In launching his campaign, Wilson said, "Louisiana needs a governor that’ll build bridges, not burn them. That’s the kind of leader I’ve been, and that’s exactly the kind of governor I promise to be."

A native of New Orleans, Wilson graduated from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette and has a master's degree and Ph.D. in public administration from Southern University.

Wilson served as Executive Director of the Louisiana Serve Commission and Deputy Legislative Director for Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco before starting his career at the Department of Transportation and Development (DOTD) in 2005.

He served as confidential assistant to then-Transportation Secretary Johnny Bradberry and as Chief of Staff to successive DOTD Secretaries William Ankner and Sherri LeBas, both under a Republican administration.

Wilson was appointed Secretary of Transportation by Governor John Bel Edwards in 2016 and in that capacity was elected President of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials in 2021 -- the first African-American to serve in the role. He retired last week to make his run.

Although Wilson enters as a frontrunner, a slew of prominent Republicans are already in the race.

Under Louisiana's jungle primary system, all candidates appear on the same ballot, regardless of their party affiliation. If one candidate does not win with a majority of the vote in the October 14 election, then the top two candidates go to a runoff general election on November 18, 2023.

The field of GOP contenders includes State Attorney General Jeff Landry, State Treasurer John Schroder, State Senate Majority Leader Sharon Hewitt (Slidell), and State Representative Richard Nelson (Mandeville).

Attorney Hunter Lundy (Lake Charles), who describes himself as a conservative Christian, is running as an Independent.

In a purported effort to coalesce around one candidate, the state GOP controversially endorsed Landry last November before any other candidates entered the race. Landry also had the early support of Donald Trump, Jr. and is actively courting the endorsement of Trump Sr., who won the state by nearly 19 points in 2020.

Landry entered 2023 with just over $5 million cash on hand. That doesn't include another $1.5 million from a political action committee supporting his candidacy or a further $350,000 from the Louisiana Republican Party.

Schroder closed 2022 with $2.4 million cash on hand; Hewitt with $617,875 on hand, including a $200,000 personal loan to her campaign; and Nelson $197,346 on hand. Lundy reported $1.65 million on hand which included $1.4 million he loaned to his campaign.

Campaign spending on Louisiana's 2023 governor's race is expected to exceed $100 million as a top target for flipping by the GOP. Although Governor Edwards was elected twice as the only statewide Democrat, he is a southern, pro-life conservative who successfully appealed to Louisiana's traditional Democratic voting base.

Edwards endorsed Wilson yesterday, saying, "Shawn shares my belief that we should put what's best for our people before what's best for our political parties."

Also on the Ballot in Louisiana: Lt. Governor, Attorney General, Secretary of State, State Treasurer, State Auditor, Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry, Commissioner of Insurance, State Senate, State House, School Boards, Ballot Measure.

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Kimberly Scott

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Sources: Ballotpedia, Daily Advertiser, WAFB, The Advocate


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