There’s no question which Louisiana state office has top billing in this October’s election.
But after Governor, what should be considered the second most important contest?
Technically and constitutionally it’s lieutenant governor. Incumbent Billy Nungesser opted to forgo a bid for the top office in the state and thus is a virtual lock for reelection.
A successful campaign for a third term would make Nungesser the longest serving lieutenant governor since Taddy Aycock of St. Mary Parish held the post under the governorships of Jimmie Davis (second nonconsecutive term) and John McKeithen (two consecutive terms).
Nungesser already holds the distinction of being the longest serving Republican lieutenant governor in Louisiana history.
A remarkable five statewide offices won’t have incumbents seeking reelection, either due to term limits (governor), higher aspirations (attorney general and treasurer), or decision to simply not run again (insurance commissioner and secretary of state).
In the unlikely scenario at least two of the occupants not named Edwards have a change of heart about their announced plans, the 2023 statewide ballot will feature the most vacancies elected under the Louisiana Constitution of 1974.
The battle for Secretary of State could prove to be a sleeper election on the 2023 ballot that draws considerable interest, particularly from our of state forces.
For a party that has known its fair share of political struggles in 20th century Louisiana elections, Republicans has enjoyed success in Secretary of State contests, ironically thanks in no small part to the state’s prominent political families.
The first Louisiana Republican to hold the office of Secretary of State in the 20th century was Fox McKeithen.
The son of former Governor “Big John” McKeithen, Fox was initially elected as a Democrat to the office but jumped to the GOP in 1989 at the behest of “Mr. Billy” Nungesser (the State GOP chairman at that time and father of the current Republican lieutenant governor).
However that Republican victory almost proved to be brief as the 1991 state elections were disastrous for the Louisiana GOP due to the “Duke effect” sinking almost anyone with an “R” by their name.
McKeithen just barely survived by a scant 9141 votes out of over 1.6 million ballots cast, running ahead of Republican Lieutenant Governor Paul Hardy in Orleans Parish by 17-points.
The secret to Fox’s success?
The scion of New Orleans’ first black mayor was grateful that McKeithen’s father had appointed “Dutch” Morial as a juvenile court judge in 1970. The Morial LIFE organization was one of the most influential black political groups in Orleans Parish and the backing of this ostensibly Democratic machine helped save the lone Republican statewide official in the 1991 election.
Including the close call in 1991, Republican Secretary of State candidates have prevailed in nine consecutive elections including the 2006 special election to fill the unexpired term caused by the death of McKeithen.
Yet despite the streak, there are some things to consider going into this fall’s election.
First the sudden announcement that Kyle Ardoin would not run again has created an unexpected vacancy that sent candidates scrambling with the lone exception of grocer and Ardoin critic Brandon Trosclair, who had planned on running last year.
Secondly, four Republican candidates of stature have announced: Trosclair, Speaker of the House Clay Schexnayder, Public Service Commissioner Mike Francis, and the most recent entry former legislator and Secretary of State official Nancy Landry.
Only Francis has run statewide, having run for the office unsuccessfully in the 2006 special election.
Thirdly, there is the matter of Thomas Kennedy. This mysterious candidate who has spent no money on his previous run for Secretary of State beyond his qualifying fee and bank charges managed to rack up an amazing 19% in the 2019 race- due in no smart part to voters believing he is connected to US Senator John Kennedy.
It was enough to force Ardoin into a runoff that proved particularly inconvenient in the gubernatorial runoff campaign as it divided focus, even marginally, from Eddie Rispone’s campaign.
Fourthly, as of right now we don’t know who all the candidates will be. This isn’t so much an issue on the Republican end but the other side, and that could prove to be very significant.
There are two kinds of non-federal elections George Soros likes to play in: district attorney races and Secretary of State contests.
And we’ve seen in Arizona the damage a Democratic Secretary of State can do.
With only three states having major elections in 2023, don’t be surprised if out of state leftist money finds its way into Louisiana, particularly in a divided Republican field.
Who the Democrats ultimately run and how much national money flows directly and indirectly (through Super PACs like Soros’s Democracy PAC and the Democratic Association of Secretaries of State) into the Secretary of State election is uncertain. For now.
We do know that Soros “invested” a staggering $50 million into the 2022 midterms; in a hard to raise money contest such as Secretary of State, just 2% of that total cold reset the race.
Republicans need to be smart and flexible in an election that as Thomas “Not John” Kennedy has demonstrated in his two ballot appearances the public pays very little attention.
Premature gaming of the race by party insiders could prove costly and would play into the Democrats ‘ hands. Besides none of the four announced candidates are likely to drop out before the primary anyway and a repeat of the embarrassing 2018 LAGOP debacle would not be helpful.
Assuming there will be a runoff in this particular race, poisoning the well on the outset would be extremely counterproductive when it’s going to be necessary to bring everyone together for the November runoff. And as we’ve seen from the 2019 governor’s race, that’s easier said than done in short order.
If you’re part of a national leftist political operation, the 2023 open contest for Secretary of State could be the unforeseen opportunity to salvage something from the Louisiana elections that could be useful in the long-term despite the expected drubbing they know that’s coming in the governor’s race.