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This week in politics: Landry announces first cabinet appointment, low early voting turnout

A view of the Mississippi River and downtown Baton Rouge from the Louisiana State Capitol’s observation deck on Nov. 12, 2021.
Aubry Procell
A view of the Mississippi River and downtown Baton Rouge from the Louisiana State Capitol’s observation deck on Nov. 12, 2021.

Election day in Louisiana is tomorrow — Saturday, Nov. 18.

Even though the governor’s race has already been decided, three hugely important statewide races will be on the ballot: secretary of state, treasurer and attorney general. One Democrat and one Republican will face off in each race.

Voters will also consider four proposed constitutional amendments, and many will see local races on their ballot, like school board and legislative races, which vary across the state. You can find stories about each of the statewide races on our website and listen to interviews with the candidates. Voters can also browse our guide to the constitutional amendments as well as a guide to voting and a guide that rounds up everything on the ballot.

Polls will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Louisianans can find their polling locations and sample ballots on the Secretary of State’s website.

Gov.-elect Landry announces his first cabinet appointment

Republican Gov.-elect Jeff Landry tapped Aurelia Skipwith Giacometto to be his Department of Environmental Quality Secretary this week, a role responsible for protecting Louisiana’s environment, including its air and water.

Giacometto, who previously served as the head of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service under the Trump administration, will be the first Black woman to lead the department.

“I am honored to have been selected by Governor-elect Landry to serve as the Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality,” Giacometto said in a statement. “Louisiana is unique in its natural resources, which attract many people to the State. I look forward to bringing my background and experience in science and conservation to serve the Governor and the great people of Louisiana.”

She sits on the board of several conservative organizations that push back on mainstream climate change science and environmental protection efforts, including the Steamboat Institute, a Colorado nonprofit that advocates for limited government and is associated with skeptics of mainstream climate change science.

Giacometto’s and Landry’s background has raised concerns for some about the future of climate policy in Louisiana. Under Gov. John Bel Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the region, Louisiana has led the Deep South in climate action. Edwards used his executive power to implement his Climate Action Plan, which, among other things, set a goal for the state to be carbon neutral by 2050.

All or part of that plan could dissolve under new leadership. Landry has called climate change a hoax in the past. When he announced Giacometto’s appointment this week, Landry suggested he might abandon Edwards’ plan, saying the carbon neutral policies he’s read about would be “extremely destructive” to the state’s economy.

But Landry did suggest he won’t get rid of all of Edwards’ climate policies. He said the state needs to strike a balance between protecting the environment and protecting industries like oil and gas and the hundreds of thousands of jobs they provide.

Giacometto is Landry’s first cabinet appointment. He still has several other cabinet positions to fill before he takes office in January.

Low early voting turnout

Data from the Secretary of State’s website shows that early voting turnout was once again low and leaned Republican. Only about 270,000 Louisianans — or about 9% of all eligible voters — cast their ballots in the early voting period that ended last weekend. That represents an 8% drop in early voters compared to the general election in 2019.

Early voting typically accounts for a significant portion of total voter turnout in Louisiana. With the governor’s race already decided, turnout in Saturday’s election is expected to be even lower than turnout in the October primary, which was a dismal 36.3%.

Politics news from across the state

Landry wants more budget information about paid parental leave for state workersLouisiana Illuminator, Baton Rouge

Gov. John Bel Edwards announced last week paid parental leave of up to six weeks for all state employees. The policy would start on Jan. 1 — just one week before Landry takes office. It would be up to Landry’s administration to finance the policy in the state budget. Landry said this week he would need to see the budget impact of the paid parental leave before deciding whether to keep the policy.

Lafayette Mayor-President race is close, according to poll responsesThe Daily Advertiser, Lafayette

A poll among registered voters shows a tight race for Lafayette Mayor-President between Republican incumbent Josh Guillory and challenger Monique Blanco Boulet, the daughter of late Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco. Boulet is ahead in the poll with 40%. Guillory trailed closely behind with 37%, and 22% of respondents were undecided.

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.

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