Louisiana Democratic gubernatorial candidate Shawn Wilson facing low voter turnout, bad news in polls ahead of open primary election

October 12, 2023

The leading Democratic candidate for governor in Louisiana, former state Transportation Sec. Shawn Wilson, is facing some bad news with respect to voter turnout and his prospects for victory ahead of an impending primary election date, according to The Hill.

Louisiana will hold an open gubernatorial primary election on Saturday, Oct. 14, involving all candidates vying to replace term-limited Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards, with the top two vote-getters advancing to a run-off election in November if no candidate clears 50% support in the primary.

In all likelihood, the Democrat Wilson will move on to the run-off to face Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry, who is leading in all categories including polling support, name recognition, favorability, fundraising, and early voter turnout.

Early voting turnout down for Democrats, even for Republicans

The Hill reported that Lousiana Democrats and the Wilson campaign are concerned about the candidate's weakness in the polls, low early voter turnout among Democrats generally and black voters in particular, and minimal coordination between the campaign and state Democratic Party in terms of ads and fundraising.

"Democratic turnout has been weak," GOP-aligned Louisiana pollster John Couvillon said. "Normally, early voting tends to favor Democrats, and Republicans as of Saturday night cumulatively have a plus-5 lead."

That assertion is confirmed by a comparison of the early voting data in Oct. 2023 with the same point just ahead of the primary election in Oct. 2019, which shows that voter turnout is generally down across the board, especially among Democrats (145,457 now compared to 168,951 then) and black voters (93,469 now versus 97,990 then).

One exception that bodes particularly ill for Democrats and Wilson, however, is early voting turnout among Republicans that nearly matched the prior election -- 158,133 now compared to 159,633 then.

Landry leading in the polls

The early voting turnout issue merely compounds the problems that Wilson was already facing based on the latest and best polling on the Louisiana governor's race, which was reported on in mid-September by local Fox affiliate WVUE and showed Landry with 40% support over 24% support for Wilson.

Given the strong likelihood of a run-off between Landry and Wilson, the poll revealed that Landry would prevail in that head-to-head matchup by a margin of 52-39%.

It further showed that Landry enjoyed 46% name recognition and 22% favorability compared to Wilson's 28% name recognition and 7% favorability.

On top of that, the pollsters found that the economy and jobs were the top issues followed by crime and drugs, which happen to all be the main issues that Landry is running on. Wilson's campaign has focused on issues like bipartisanship and infrastructure, per The Hill, yet neither of those was even mentioned among the top concerns for voters.

Landry crushing Wilson in fundraising

One final area of concern for Democrats and the Wilson campaign is fundraising, as Landry also has a sizeable advantage in that regard, according to The Hill.

In addition to his own fundraising, Landry has received around $4 million in donations and assistance from the Republican Governors Association, while that group's counterpart, the Democratic Governors Association, has only spent around $500,000 in the Louisiana race.

These several trends certainly don't look promising for Wilson's electoral prospects, and setting aside the possibility of a massive Election Day turnout for Democrats -- which would defy virtually all historic trends -- it looks like the purple state of Louisiana, which the polling showed has a plurality of registered Democratic voters, will be governed by a Republican for the next four years.

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