Nancy Landry (R) and Gwen Collins-Greenup (D) advanced from the all-party primary for Louisiana secretary of state on Oct. 14, 2023. Landry received 19.4% of the vote, followed by Collins-Greenup with 19.2%. Incumbent Kyle Ardoin (R) did not run for re-election.
Louisiana’s secretary of state is the state’s chief election officer. According to Louisiana Illuminator’s Greg LaRose, the next officeholder “should expect a fairly intense spotlight” since they will be responsible for “replacing the voting machines the state uses, a process current office holder Kyle Ardoin has had to restart twice.”
Ardoin announced he would not run for re-election in April 2023, citing criticism surrounding how elections were administered in the state. In a statement, Ardoin said it was “shameful and outright dangerous that a small minority of vocal individuals [had] chosen to denigrate the hard work of [his office’s] election staff and spread unproven falsehoods.”
Louisiana elections use the majority-vote system. All candidates compete in the same primary. A candidate who gets more than 50% of the vote wins outright. If no candidate wins outright, the top two vote-getters advance to the general election, regardless of their partisan affiliation. This year’s general election is on November 18.
Landry, Collins-Greenup, Mike Francis (R), Arthur Morrell (D), and Clay Schexnayder (R) earned the most media attention.
Landry, a former state representative, had served as Louisiana’s first assistant secretary of state since 2019. Landry emphasized her experience in that role: “While serving as First Assistant Secretary of State, I gained the critical experience needed for the upcoming elections and beyond. With everything on the line, 2024 might be the most important election in our lifetime. There is no time for a Secretary of State who needs on-the-job training.”
Collins-Greenup, a private attorney, ran for secretary of state in 2019 and in the 2018 special election. She advanced to the general election in both years, losing to Ardoin 59-41% on both occasions. Collins-Greenup said she was running “to strengthen our businesses, secure our elections, and protect every eligible Louisiana citizen’s right to vote.”
Francis served on the Louisiana Public Service Commission since 2017. He owned a drilling company on the Gulf Coast and was chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party from 1994 to 2000. Francis said he decided to run “because of the threat of going back to paper ballots during the election,” which he said some had proposed but election officials did not support.
Morrell served as Orleans Parish criminal court clerk from 2006 to 2022. Morrell said he “rebuilt the [court clerk’s] office after hurricanes Katrina and Rita to ensure the integrity of New Orleans’ elections.” On voting machines, he said “I’m not so hot on replacing these machines unless we can get something that’s as good or better. … I’m not for a paper ballot. They’ve had too many problems in other states with the paper ballot.”
Schexnayder served in the Louisiana House of Representatives since 2012 and as the chamber’s speaker since January 2020. Schexnayder said Ardoin was “leaving behind one of the most secure and respected election divisions in the country” and he wanted to “build on that success until Louisiana elections are ranked number one in the nation.”
Including this year, four elections for secretary of state have advanced to a general election since 2003, while four have been decided in the primary. The last Democrat elected to the office was W. Fox McKeithen in 1987. McKeithen switched parties in 1989 and served in the position as a Republican until his death in office in 2005.
Thomas Kennedy III (R), Brandon Trosclair (R), and Amanda Smith Jennings (Independent) also ran in the primary.