Five things to know about Louisiana’s new far-right Gov. Jeff Landry

The ultra-rightwing former Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry was sworn in Jan. 7 as the state’s governor. 

Jeff Landry represents the far-right, reactionary wing of the ruling class. He is a vocal white supremacist, watchdog of the police state and opponent of all working-class, marginalized and oppressed communities. 

While some liberal and progressive forces see his election as a frightening departure from the past eight years under John Bel Edwards — who held the title of the Deep South’s only’s Democratic governor — there is scarce reason to believe that the lives of working-class Louisianans can ever be fundamentally transformed by the sham democracy of capitalism, regardless of which brand of ruling class elites happen to hold office at any given time. Red or blue, both parties’ interests lie in the pockets of billion-dollar industry executives, not the needs of everday working people.

While Bel Edwards did enact some reforms, including the expansion of Medicaid and issuing stricter statewide standards for greenhouse gas emissions, we cannot be fooled into thinking that anything fundamentally changed for working-class Louisianans under Democratic leadership. Bel Edwards signed the abortion ban into law, refused to veto repressive anti-trans legislation and was a staunch proponent of false solutions to climate change, including the introduction of dangerous, expensive new pipelines to already burdened communities. 

It is undeniable that voter suppression played a role in Landry’s election. Only about 23% of registered voters cast ballots in November, the lowest turnout rates in recent state history. Turnout dropped significantly among Black and Democratic voters. Black voters face severe voter suppression, due to racist redistricting practices and the disenfranchisement of formerly incarcerated people. 

1. Landry has vowed to expand the police state

Landry is posturing as a “tough on crime” governor, famously a watchword for expanding the racist police state and increasing surveillance of poor Black communities. He promises to bring Louisiana State Police back to New Orleans under the guise of “fighting crime,” while offering no plans for addressing the root causes of crime: poverty and its ensuing racial inequities. Landry has called for a special legislative session solely focused on addressing crime in the state, which will likely result in expanded police powers. 

Historically, state troopers’ presence in the city has been aggressive and violent toward Black residents. LSP also has a history of violating the city’s consent decree, which is supposed to enforce police accountability. Moreover, LSP could bypass city council review for increased surveillance architecture, i.e., drones and facial recognition technology.

Bringing state troopers back into New Orleans will do anything but keep our community safe. Instead, it will bring heightened harassment, abuse, racial profiling and arrests, targeting poor and working-class Black and Brown residents. 

2.  Landry is a fierce opponent of LGBTQ and reproductive rights 

Throughout his political career, Landry has been a fierce opponent of LGBTQ rights, women’s rights and reproductive justice. In 2012, as a U.S. Representative, Landry opposed the establishment of a minor LGBTQ studies field at UL-Lafayette. In 2016, as Attorney General, he announced he would block Governor Bel Edwards’ attempt to require that state contracts protect LGBTQ employees from discrimination. In 2022, he created an online tip line through which people could submit library content that was allegedly inappropriate/hypersexual for children, an anti-LGBTQ dog whistle to censor queer literature. 

Landry is rabidly anti-choice. In 2022, he supported the statewide abortion ban and suggested that anyone who disagrees with it should move out of the state. That same year, he twice urged the Louisiana State Bond Commission to delay funding for a power station that charges drainage pumps in New Orleans, a cruel punishment for the city’s decriminalization of abortion.

3. Landry answers to the fossil fuel industry, not the people of Louisiana

Despite representing one of the states most ravaged by climate change, Jeff Landry is a vocal climate denier and one of the fossil fuel industry’s closest friends. At an energy conference in 2017, he described climate change as a “hoax,” aligning himself with the world’s biggest polluters. He is a staunch defender of the oil and gas industry. After his election, the Oil and Gas Association praised him as a “friend of the industry.”

As attorney general, he blocked a federal attempt to mitigate air pollution in “Cancer Alley,” an 85-mile stretch of land between New Orleans and Baton Rouge that is home to over 200 petrochemical plants, where the cancer rate for residents is up to 50 times higher than the national average. 

The Landry administration is likely to derail the state’s carbon-reducing goals, curtail efforts to expand renewable energy and greenlight destructive drilling projects. Meanwhile, the state faces some of the country’s worst climate outcomes, including increasingly strong hurricane seasons, drought, record-high summer temperatures, coastal wetland erosion, air pollution and dismal health outcomes caused by petrochemical polluters. 

4. Landry has repeatedly ignored or flaunted democratic processes

During his run for governor, Landry refused to attend debates alongside his fellow gubernatorial candidates, believing himself to be above the rules of law. During his term as attorney general, he pressured his political opponents — from university administrators to journalists — with legal action if they contested his stances. In 2020, he joined other Republican attorneys general to falsely assert that the 2020 presidential election suffered from voter fraud, part of a widespread effort for far-right Republicans to stay in the White House. 

Due to ongoing voter suppression efforts in Louisiana, e.g., gerrymandering and voter registration laws, Landry won the 2023 governor’s primary outright and faced no opponent in a runoff race. 

5.  Landry is a vocal white supremacist 

Landry has a loathsome racial justice record: He has repeatedly invoked racist, anti-Black rhetoric and has voted for numerous laws intended to curtail civil rights and expand police repression. 

He once called Black Lives Matter protesters “armed thugs” and referred to a policy intended to reduce racial discrimination in policing as the “Hug-a-Thug” policy. 

Under Landry, the Louisiana Department of Justice awarded a legal fellowship in honor of E.D. White, the Louisiana Supreme Court Justice who ruled in favor of legal “separate but equal” segregation in the landmark case Plessy v. Ferguson.

In 2023, he tried to force immigrants’ rights associations to turn over confidential information about immigrant communities.

Jeff Landry. Photo by Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED

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