Campaign aides talk successes, failures in Louisiana governor’s race
Let Jeff be Jeff.
That was all it took to make Attorney General Jeff Landry the next governor of Louisiana, campaign manager Cory Dennis said at a panel Tuesday examining campaign strategy in the 2023 gubernatorial election LSU’s Reilly Center for Media and Public Affairs hosted.
“Jeff Landry’s biggest strength is he’s a people person,” Dennis said. “I think if you actually meet him, you’ll immediately fall in love with him.”
That’s why Landry avoided forums and debates most candidates participated in, Dennis said, arguing that Landry was better suited campaigning directly to voters rather than engaging in “back and forth” with other candidates on stage.
Landry’s departure from the political norm by skipping those events — and keeping his campaign appearance schedule tightly under wraps — ruffled some feathers among the other candidates and other Louisiana politicos, who felt it did a disservice to voters.
But Landry’s strategy worked. He outperformed even his own team’s expectations, winning outright in October and avoiding the anticipated November runoff.
Landry’s early entrance to the race, early Louisiana Republican Party endorsement and high name recognition put him far ahead of his fellow GOP candidates in the polls, giving him an early lead he never ceded. Another part of the winning combination was low voter turnout, especially among Black voters.
Brandin Campbell, campaign manager for Democratic frontrunner Shawn Wilson, said the inability to motivate Black voters was one of the failures of his campaign.
“People need something to vote against, right, particularly when you’re trying to motivate Black voters,” Campbell said. “We didn’t have an opportunity to convey what’s really at stake. And, you know, as a result, we have Jeff Landry as governor.”
“I think if people really understood what the changes are gonna be, right, then they would have voted. Turnout would have been completely different,” Campbell added.
Pres Robinson, a campaign strategist for independent candidate Hunter Lundy, attributed low voter turnout to dissatisfaction with the system.
A negative advertisement about an opponent may help your candidate in the short-term, Robinson said, but it could also keep people home on election day.
Lundy hoped to capitalize on this dissatisfaction with the system to make it into the runoff, but he garnered just 5% of the vote to finish in fifth place.
Robinson said Lundy may have had a better shot if he had run as a Democrat as he did when he made the runoff for a congressional seat in the 1990s.
“You have a better chance of winning in the runoff if you’re an independent, and you have a better chance of getting to a runoff if you’re a Democrat. So pick your poison,” Robinson said he advised Lundy.