BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) — In the final moments before Louisiana’s gubernatorial primary election cycle, candidates are making a push to get their messages out and attempting to defy weeks of polls that suggest the runoff spots for the next governor have long since been decided.
With six major candidates running for the state’s top job: one Democrat, four Republicans, and one Independent. Each candidate has been stopping at greasy spoon cafes, chamber meetings, collegiate forums and any place that will listen to their messages. Some stop at a half dozen events in a day.
“This is your race. This is your campaign. This is our state,” Jeff Landry told a crowd at George’s restaurant in south Baton Rouge.
He’s been the front-runner for months and has been on the campaign trail for an entire year. He’s focused more on launching ads to explain who he is rather than participating in forums or debates. Landry attended just one televised debate with six other candidates. His opponents have shared their frustrations with Landry not showing up for more than a handful of public forums.
Landry was smiling and in high spirits talking to his supporters in the crowded patio of the restaurant. Numbers have shown Republicans out-voting Democrats for the first time in early voting. Landry said some are hoping for him to win the jungle primary outright with 50%+1 votes, but he said he’s preparing for a runoff.
“We think the early voting numbers certainly are an indication that those folks on our side are energized. That’s good for us,” Landry said.
The lone Democrat in the race, Shawn Wilson, is hopeful his party and anyone who isn’t sold on Landry will show him support at the polls.
“We’ve got to stop the extremism. We’ve got to stop partisan politics and we’ve got to stop the social media soundbites. Let’s look at real solutions,” Wilson said.
Wilson is suggested to be safe in the runoff race given he is the only major Democrat on the ballot and has the endorsements of the state party and most major Democrats in the state. When asked about the lower voter turnout and apparent apathy towards the race, Wilson points to Louisianans having a lot on their plates from the insurance crisis, education needs and childcare, among other pressing issues.
“I think part of the fact is Jeff has not shown up to debate and discuss his issues,” Wilson said. “And so you really don’t have any reason to reject him until you understand what his ideas are.”
The other Republicans on the ballot have not given up. Stephen Waguespack said his message has struck a chord with voters in the race. He is hopeful this race could come with surprises on election night.
“So time and time again, the only thing that’s been proven is that political experts aren’t usually right in Louisiana when it comes to the governor’s races,” Waguespack said.
He entered the race last in hopes of offering another conservative option for voters who may not have wanted to support Landry. The former business and industry leader said people have really started to tune into the race only in the last couple of weeks, which is much later than usual.
“They’re sick of having leaders who just focus on who to fight as compared to who to work with and that is a message that corresponds very well with us,” Waguespack said.
Sharon Hewitt has rolled out her blueprints for the major issues facing the state. With her experience in the legislature, she has aired frustrations over a lot of the debate discussions being over hot topic issues or attacks.
“I’m not just waiting to say when I’m governor. Here are the things that I’m going to do and just be like another typical politician with a bunch of empty promises,” Hewitt said.
She claims her record at the state Capitol is a positive reflection of what she can get done.
“I don’t know how you could support the guy that has been in the Department of Transportation his entire career and led that department for the last eight years. Our infrastructure is horrible in Louisiana. And as you look at crime and legal reform, those are things that our attorney general has not led on where he had opportunities to do so,” Hewitt said.
John Schroder said in a phone interview as he headed to another campaign stop in Destrehan that some lawmakers are scared to death not to support Landry. The treasurer has hinged his campaign on fighting cronyism and launching direct attacks on Landry in his television ads. He said that he has not made threats or promises in his run.
Independent Hunter Lundy maintains his message that he is not beholden to any party and that the two front runners in the race shouldn’t have a promotion. His decisions blend with his Christian faith and he goes so far as to tell his political consultants that he believes God’s path will lead him in this race.
“We have to get our priorities straight and we can’t play games at the Capitol anymore,” Lundy said.
After Saturday, if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, the top two will advance to a runoff that many are hoping will kick into high gear. The general election will be held on Nov. 18.
Polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14. Click here to find your polling location.