For an election cycle that’s expected to be bland, last week’s qualifying process opened up an impressive spread of statewide, regional and multi-parish positions—68 total, not including local-level posts.
If you missed the action on these major races, either intentionally or accidentally, here are five trends and takeaways from this most recent qualifying period for our 2018 election cycle.
1. Apathy continues.
One-third (33.8%) of the statewide, regional and multi-parish offices that were slated for the Nov. 6 ballot drew just one candidate each.
That means they’re in line to be decided without an official vote of the people. These lone-candidate races are part of an unnerving trend where citizens are not only showing a lack of interest in voting, but also in running for office.
The politicos who scored easy and cheap victories last week probably don’t mind. But voters should.
2. Who didn’t get free passes?
Each and every member of Louisiana’s U.S. House delegation will have to strap on gloves this cycle. There were plenty of challengers to go around, and each congressman has at least one.
3. Who did get free passes?
Still new to the Public Service Commission’s 2nd District following a special election, Dr. Craig Greene’s bid for a full term ended successfully before it started at all. His lack of opposition can be credited to the $1 million, 20-month fundraising haul that was finessed by Greene’s campaign.
State Supreme Court Justice Jeff Hughes got his robe and gavel back for the cost of qualifying as well, and Sen. Jonathan Perry is probably going to get a new set for being the lone qualifier for a 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal seat.
With $264,000 in the bank, Hughes spared the state a repeat of his last election, which pitted business interests against members of the trial bar. The latter has again emerged victorious, but there is another active Supreme Court race in the 1st District to keep tabs on. Two Republicans—Richard Ducote of Covington and Greg Guidry of New Orleans—are on the ballot.
Like Greene, Hughes and Perry, there were another 20 lone qualifiers who won their major races in the best way possible: without opposition.
4. BR’s revolving door
That list mentioned above of opponent-free candidates includes Rep.-elect Wayne McMahen, who is positioned to become the newest member of the Legislature following his lone qualification for the special election in House District 10. That victory also means that one of the three special House elections on the November ballot has already been decided.
Plus, yet another special election will need to be called in the state Senate. Like McMahen, Sen. Jonathan Perry was the only contender to sign up for a vacant seat on the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeal.
5. SOS Is numero uno.
The race for secretary of state still tops the ballot as the only open statewide elected position.
To be certain, it made the biggest splash during the qualifying period last week. As the final moments ticked by, interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin unexpectedly qualified for the race after telling reporters and lawmakers he would do no such thing.
If you believe the chatter from the Capitol class, Rep. Julie Stokes of Kenner is the early favorite, with her cancer-beating story of personal triumph, a war chest holding more than $184,000 and a base that’s flowering out of the voter-rich region in and around Jefferson Parish.
Others signed their names to state documents as well, including Turkey Creek Mayor Heather Cloud; former Sen. A.G. Crowe; Rep. Rick Edmonds; and Reneé Free, who’s on leave as the attorney general’s public protection director.
Edmonds will have a finely-tuned fundraising operation that will be worth watching, but he’ll also have to unite his fellow pastors from around the state to show he can generate the kind of support needed to win.
Expect a serious effort from Crowe, who isn’t doing any favors for Stokes by mounting a bid out of St. Tammany, which the representative will need to complete her collection of must-win GOP parishes. While the southeast will be a key area for conservative candidates, keep an eye on Acadiana, which has failed to come through for any particular candidates of late despite it having the capability.
One reason oddsmakers like Stokes is because she’s a woman who can talk about women’s issues in any environment. That’s important in an election to replace a man who was chased out of office by sexual harassment allegations. The election seems built for a female candidate, which is probably why there are four women running, including Stokes, out of the nine-person field.
It’s rare that so many qualified women would appear in the same race—serving as either further confirmation of how ripe the contest is for gender politics or proof that more women are taking an interest in politics. Given that men still outnumber women nearly three-to-one as candidates in these races, the most likely explanation could be the former.
Also running in the SOS election are Gwen Collins-Greenup, a Democrat from Clinton who in 2015 ran for East Feliciana Parish clerk of court; attorney Matt Moreau, a medical equipment business owner and cannabis activist; and Thomas J. Kennedy III, a real estate developer from New Orleans who ran unsuccessfully for the Senate in 2007.
The primary elections are scheduled for Nov. 6, with runoffs as needed Dec. 8.