Democrats Cheer As Shawn Wilson Enters Race for Governor

Source: Shawn Wilson for Louisiana

The dynamics in the race for governor of Louisiana changed dramatically today with the entry of Democrat Shawn Wilson, the well-respected former state secretary of transportation who resigned his position last Friday, March 3. Wilson joined the field that is already cluttered with Republicans including Attorney General Jeff Landry, the early leader in the race, State Treasurer John Schroeder, State Senator Sharon Hewitt, State Rep. Richard Nelson and trial attorney Hunter Lundy who as an Evangelical Christian could run on the right of Landry – a scary thought for sure.

Wilson, who is Black, may well be the only major Democrat to make the race. Already prognosticators believe that Wilson has the ability to make the runoff against one of the Republicans if he is able to hold on to his Democratic base and pick up cross-over support from open-minded Independents and moderate Republicans. 

Though Wilson has resided in Lafayette for many years and ran for City Council there unsuccessfully, he grew up in Algiers and is the son of Sandra Wilson (not the registrar of voters) who has been active in New Orleans politics for decades through the organization Women on the Move and is an elected member of the parish’s democratic committee.

Wilson rolled out his campaign via an excellent video that was widely viewed and reported on by media outlets around the state. As a candidate, Wilson is a fresh new face. He served Governor John Bel Edwards with distinction while running the state’s largest department. Wilson has an impressive body of work and accomplishments. 

Through the wise utilization of federal pandemic dollars, he was able to create value in many Louisiana parishes by the construction of new roads and bridges as well as improvements to ports and airports. By building a reputation as a fair and honest public official who brought results for Louisiana residents, Wilson enjoys the respect of elected officials and transportation leaders throughout the state and nation. 

Just because Wilson looks good on paper, it doesn’t automatically lead to victory. Just ask former Shreveport Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Adrian Perkins or recent U.S. Senate candidate Luke Mixon. Wilson must build on the base of support both their men developed in their races. Going forward, his biggest challenge will be to keep his base energized with lots of new messages, fresh endorsements and realistic policy proposals. Voters, especially younger voters, become disengaged quickly. Wilson will have to constantly connect and reconnect with voters through both social and paid media as well as good ole grassroots hand-shaking, back-slapping politics.  

Ultimately what could set Wilson apart from the other contenders is the willingness to exploit their weaknesses. David Duke could have beaten Edwin Edwards if Edwards hadn’t pounded on Duke’s Klan past. David Vitter was headed to the governor’s mansion until John Bel Edwards drove the message home about Vitter’s sexual indiscretions. 

In his announcement speech, Wilson delivered a strong message about building bridges. He built hundreds of them during his eight years as state transportation secretary and will have to build thousands more as a gubernatorial candidate. The path to the governor’s mansion is not impossible for Wilson.   

If Wilson can energize enough voters with his vision for the future, Louisiana will elect another Democratic governor.   

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