Louisiana gubernatorial candidate Jeff Landry speaks to supports during a watch party at Broussard Ballroom on Saturday, October 14, 2023 in Broussard, La..

As expected, voter turnout in the Oct. 14 primary was dismal overall, particularly in Black and Democratic strongholds. Turnout was significantly higher among Republicans, according to early voting statistics and overall numbers from parishes with large GOP registrations.

To paraphrase Norman Vincent Peale, enthusiasm made the difference.

That was apparent in the early voting numbers. Republicans turned out in greater numbers and higher proportions than Democrats, particularly Black Democrats. That, coupled with the overall low voter turnout last Saturday, enabled Republican Attorney General Jeff Landry to pull off an impressive 52% win in the primary.

Among the takeaways is the growing significance of early voting, which continues to grow in terms of its percentage of total votes cast.

In 2007, when it was still a new phenomenon, early voting?comprised?less than 11% of the total votes cast — less than 140,000 of the nearly 1.3 million total votes. Overall turnout that year was almost 46%. Bobby Jindal won that year’s contest for governor in the primary, with 54% of the vote.

Four years later, Jindal faced meager opposition, which led to a substantial drop in turnout, to just over 36.3%. However, early voting increased to more than 168,000 votes — 16.3% of the total votes?cast that year.

That marked the beginning of a trend that continued through this year’s primary.

In the 2015 primary, with no incumbent running, more than 1.13 million voters, or 39.2% of the electorate, cast ballots. Of that total, more than 234,700, or 20.7%, voted early. John Bel Edwards ran first in that primary and ultimately defeated David Vitter in the runoff.

In 2019, when Edwards ran for reelection, turnout in the primary increased to nearly 1.36 million, or 45.9%. Of that total, more than 386,000, or 28.4%, cast early ballots.

This year's disappointing turnout of 1.06 million, or 35.8%, was slightly larger than the total votes cast in 2011, but this?year's turnout percentage was slightly smaller than in 2011.

The precipitous drop in turnout last Saturday also reflected the first-ever decline in the number of early votes cast in a governor's race, compared to the previous primary. Slightly less than 345,000 voters cast early ballots this year, down by more than 41,000 from 2019.

However, early voting continued to grow in significance, because it comprised?more than 32.4% — nearly one-third — of the total votes cast for governor this year.

Give Landry credit, because it wasn’t just the low turnout that led to his victory. He had the most effective “air game” (read: TV and social media ads) as well as the best “ground game” (voter turnout operation). Landry voters also were more enthusiastic than those who voted for his main rival, Democrat Shawn Wilson, based on turnout.

Compare, for example, the turnouts in New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport — which are Democratic strongholds with large contingents of Black voters — to those in Jefferson, St. Tammany, Ascension and Lafayette parishes (all GOP redoubts). The difference is striking.

In New Orleans, turnout was a paltry 27% turnout — lowest in the state — compared to 32.4% in neighboring Jefferson and 36.2%. in St. Tammany.

Turnout in East Baton Rouge Parish was 34.9%, compared to 36% in adjacent Ascension Parish.

In Caddo Parish (which includes Shreveport), turnout was a mere 30%, compared to 36.8% in Lafayette Parish, which is Landry’s backyard.

On one level, the lack of contested local races in New Orleans explains the city’s pitifully low turnout, but a lack of enthusiasm among Black and White Democratic voters also accounts for it.

Statewide, Democrats this cycle had their worst showing since Reconstruction. Back then, the 14th Amendment barred many Louisiana Dems from political office because they fought for the Confederacy in the Civil War.

These days, they can’t blame anyone but themselves.

Clancy DuBos is Gambit's political editor. You can reach him at