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Reports on Louisiana politics, government and the people shaping state policy

Tonight’s debate could be voters’ one chance to see all major candidates for governor together

Gubernatorial candidates John Schroder, Sharon Hewitt, Stephen Waguespack, Hunter Lundy and Shawn Wilson sit at a desk in the WWL television studios during the first televised debate of the election.
Pool Photo by Sophia Germer
The Advocate
Last week, gubernatorial candidates John Schroder, Sharon Hewitt, Stephen Waguespack, Hunter Lundy and Shawn Wilson take part in the first televised debate of the election season. Tonight, all seven major candidates will take the stage for the first time, in a debate in Lafayette.

Every Friday, politics reporter Molly Ryan rounds up the news of the week from the campaign trail and beyond. 

Louisiana’s gubernatorial primary is just a month away, and things are heating up on the campaign trail.

Sixteen candidates qualified for the chance to replace Gov. John Bel Edwards, who has served for the last two terms and cannot run for reelection – and voters will narrow that group down to just two candidates in the primary on Saturday, Oct. 14. (Mark your calendar!)

Tonight: Second debate of the season might be only chance to see major candidates together

Last week, five of the seven major candidates for governor took the stage for the first debate of the election. Only Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry and state representative Richard Nelson were absent, for different reasons.

But tonight – Friday, Sept. 15 – all of the major candidates are expected to be in Lafayette for the second debate of the primary season.

It will likely be voters’ only chance to see all seven major candidates – Democrat Shawn Wilson, the former state secretary of transportation; independent Hunter Lundy, an attorney; and Republicans state Sen. Sharon Hewitt, state attorney general Jeff Landry, state Rep. Richard Nelson, state treasurer John Schroder and former Louisiana Association of Business and Industry leader Stephen Waguespack – on the debate stage together. Other debates are scheduled ahead of the primary, but Landry is not expected to participate.

Tonight’s debate begins at 7 p.m., and will be broadcast live on KLFY-TV and partner stations across the state: WGNO in New Orleans, KTAL in Shreveport, KTVE in Monroe, WVLA in Baton Rouge,WNTZ in Alexandria and KSWL in Lake Charles. KLFY will also stream the debate live on its website and mobile app.

Earlier this week, candidates faced off on education issues at LSU forum

Six of the major gubernatorial candidates participated in a forum Wednesday night on the campus of Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. The candidates hoped to reach young voters ahead of the primary – but the audience was sparse.

It was sponsored in part by Debate LSU, a student-based civic engagement group, and focused largely on education. The forum format allowed the candidates to give their stump speeches, then answer questions about a host of issues related to education: ways to boost the standing of Louisiana’s state universities in national rankings; strategies for improving buildings – and wages – at LSU; and reversing the exodus of college graduates from the state.

All of the candidates agreed that “brain drain” would be a top priority of their administration, but presented different approaches for ways to tackle it.

Wilson, the Democrat and former state transportation secretary, said he thinks Louisiana can strengthen – and keep – its workforce in the state by providing better jobs that pay a living wage.

Schroder, a Republican and the state’s current treasurer, argued that corruption and cronyism in state government lies at the heart of the brain drain problem. He didn’t go into more detail, but has been insistent on the campaign trail that corruption is common in state government, and is related to many of the challenges facing the state.

Meanwhile, Lundy pointed to infrastructure issues and the insurance crisis as things that are driving people away from Louisiana.

Roof-strengthening program to open applications Oct. 2

Elsewhere in state politics, insurance commissioner Jim Donelon announced earlier this week that the Louisiana Fortify Homes Program will open for applications in just a few weeks.

The state’s growing insurance crisis has been a major topic throughout the election season. Insurance companies are leaving, consumers’ premiums are growing, more homeowners have been relegated to the state's insurer of last resort and climate change has fueled storms that reliably pummel the state’s coastline and interior.

The Fortify Homes program will give homeowners up to $10,000 to replace or strengthen their roofs, to head off potential storm damage. The hope is the upgrades will better protect homes ahead of the inevitable hurricanes and storms that lash the state – and that it will make the upgraded homes more attractive for private companies to insure.

The first round of funding will belimited to people who have home insurance policies with Louisiana Citizens, the state’s insurer of last resort. It’s the company that is designated by the state to take on new customers when other insurers leave. Donelon said he hopes the program will reduce the number of people who rely on Citizens, which has nearly quadrupled since 2020.

There will be a second round of funding later this year, open to all homeowners, regardless of their insurance carrier.

Louisiana’s incoming insurance commissioner, Tim Temple, will take office in January. He said he wants the program to continue to be funded past this year.

To apply for the grant: Officials are encouraging Citizens policyholders who intend to apply for the Fortify program to set up a profile ahead of time on the insurance department’s website. Applications open Oct. 2, but officials said they expect the grants to go quickly.

Want to vote in the primary? Register by Sept. 23

It’s too late to register in person or by mail for the Oct. 14 primary, but prospective voters can still register online at until Sept. 23.

Deadlines for the Nov. 14 general election won’t begin to hit until mid-October.

Politics news from across the state

Appeals court stays order to shut down Angola youth unitVerite News, New Orleans

A federal circuit court halted a federal judge’s ruling that ordered Louisiana to shut down a youth detention center it established on the grounds of the state’s notorious penitentiary at Angola. It’s the latest in an ongoing court case filed by civil rights groups and representatives of some of the teenagers who have been transferred to the facility – in a move that state officials have said was a temporary measure – in the last year.

Louisiana moves teens out of Angola unit at center of federal civil rights lawsuitThe Advocate, Baton Rouge

Despite the stay on the judge’s order, The Advocate reports that officials have moved the teens incarcerated at Angola to a new – and temporary – juvenile justice facility in Jackson Parish. According to The Advocate’s reporting, state officials say they plan to continue to appeal the judge's order, even though it has moved the teenagers from incarceration at Angola.

Governor candidates pitch plans to keep LSU competitive as a flagshipLouisiana Illuminator, Baton Rouge

At Wednesday’s candidate forum on LSU’s campus, candidates pitched approaches for keeping the university competitive nationally – including protecting tenure as a means to protect academic freedom; prioritizing academic infrastructure over athletic infrastructure; and keeping a close eye on the university’s governing board.

St. Tammany judge takes ad attacking Jeff Landry off the air pending hearingThe Advocate, Baton Rouge

A judge issued a temporary restraining order, forcing a political group to stop airing an attack ad making murky claims against gubernatorial candidate Jeff Landry during Saturday’s broadcast of the LSU football game in certain parts of the state.

Shawn Wilson launches first TV ad in governor's race, calls himself a 'bridge builder', New Orleans

The ad for Wilson, the race’s lone Democrat, began airing on Thursday, just a month before the October primary.

Louisiana state government salary database is finally online Louisiana Illuminator, Baton Rouge

The state has published the latest iteration of its searchable database of public employees’ salaries.

Every Friday afternoon, politics reporter Molly Ryan brings listeners election and politics updates live on the Capitol Access segment of All Things Considered on WWNO and WRKF. 

Molly Ryan is a political reporter and covers state politics from the Louisiana Capitol.