Shawn Wilson faces tough odds in race for Governor
Shawn Wilson, the former head of the state Department of Transportation and Development, is currently the only declared Democratic candidate in the race to succeed Gov. John Bel Edwards in Louisiana. As a result, he is the heavy favorite to finish in the top two in the open primary and make the runoff. However, political analysts are warning that Wilson may face long odds in his attempt to duplicate his outgoing boss' feat of being elected statewide in a Republican-leaning state.
Robert Collins, a political analyst and professor of urban studies and public policy at Dillard University, notes that Louisiana is a red state, and Wilson will face a daunting challenge in the runoff. Gov. Edwards defied the odds, but even he barely won reelection despite being the perfect Southern Democrat, with his rural background, military experience, law enforcement ties, and conservative positions on guns and abortion.
Wilson may struggle to attract the 30% of the white vote that a Democrat typically needs to win statewide, says Collins. Attorney General Jeff Landry is the early favorite to be the Republican standard-bearer, partly because he was the first major candidate to enter the race and has high name recognition.
To win, Wilson would need to do the appropriate messaging to vie for that more moderate Republican vote, says Baton Rouge-based consultant and pollster John Couvillon. He notes that there were a special series of circumstances, including Republican disunity, that benefited Gov. Edwards. Couvillon asks if Wilson knows how to replicate them.
The dynamic changes if another prominent Democrat jumps in, though there does not appear to be one waiting in the wings. The biggest remaining wild card is U.S. Rep. Garret Graves. He appeals to moderates, has name recognition and an established donor base, and represents the Baton Rouge media market where about 20% of the state's voters live, notes Couvillon. The other high-profile Republican candidates, Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, and state Rep. Richard Nelson, all hail from St. Tammany Parish.