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The Ten Commandments Act is the Louisiana governor’s latest attempt to move the state further to the right

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) – Louisiana has long been reliably red. The Bayou State has voted for the Republican candidate in every presidential election since 2000, with residents overwhelmingly supporting Donald Trump for the past two years, and the Republican Party has held a majority in the state House for years.

But policies in the state have changed even further under Republican leadership. Jeff Landry, who has implemented a sweeping conservative agenda in just six months on the job. This week, he signed the nation’s first law requiring the Ten Commandments to be posted in every public classroom. He introduced a new law classifying abortion pills as dangerous controlled substances. He has expressed support for a bill on his desk that calls for a Texas-style immigration policy that would allow law enforcement to arrest and jail migrants who enter the U.S. illegally.

And lawmakers who have appreciated Landry’s tough, orderly stance on issues like the new methods of capital punishment are awaiting his action on a bill that would, for the first time of its kind, allow judges to order the surgical castration of rapists who prey on children.

These measures have made global headlines and firmly entrenched Louisiana in the conservative movement on virtually every issue animating the Republican base in 2024. Democrats are shocked by the message Landry is sending, but some conservatives in Louisiana see the moves as a bold and strong move as he raises his national profile.

“From about 500 miles away, it certainly looks like he was effective very quickly,” said Matt Mackowiak, a Texas-based GOP strategist who has worked for two congressmen and a governor. “He has made a flying start and the potential is enormous.”

‘Pent-up Republican policy preferences’

When Landry took office in January, he did so with Republicans securing all statewide elected positions for the first time in nearly a decade.

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With the Legislature’s help, he also enforced one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and pushed for anti-LGBTQ+ policies, including Louisiana’s version of a “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

While Landry has not indicated whether he will sign the Democratic-drafted castration bill into law, many Republicans and several Democrats supported it.

Republican lawmakers, in turn, have often praised the former attorney general and former congressman.

“It certainly gives you hope that your efforts will be productive when you have a governor who knows where he stands and who also knows that there is a good chance that he will sign them,” said speaker pro tempore state representative. Michael T Johnson.

Johnson, who was elected to the House of Representatives in 2019, described Landry as easy to work with, transparent and a leader he said will “move the state forward.” He added that the session was “more productive” because there were “clear and organized goals that we were trying to achieve.”

“I think what you’ve seen in this last term is pent-up Republican policy preferences,” said Robert Hogan, professor and chairman of the political science department at Louisiana State University. “They opened the floodgates and it started flowing, and a lot of them were very successful.”

Across the aisle, Democrats regularly denounced Landry’s efforts and the pace at which the bills were passed, sometimes with little feedback from the public.

The LGBTQ+ community, which had an ally in the governor’s mansion eight years earlier, has become one of Landry’s fiercest critics.

“It’s definitely a different climate here in the Legislature, especially with Governor Landry prioritizing these very damaging bills, pushing them through very quickly and making it very difficult and uncomfortable to be here,” said SarahJane Guidry, executive director from the LGBTQ+ rights organization. group Forum for Equality, said in an interview during the session.

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The recent political shift in Louisiana has at times been deflected by former Gov. John Bel Edwards, who could not immediately run again due to term limits.

Edwards, the only Democratic governor in the Deep South during his two terms, spent eight years trying to steer the state toward more Democratic paths by expanding Medicaid coverage, joining climate change initiatives and vetoing some of the measures Landry has since signed into law.

Many voters, however, seemed ready for the change Landry has brought. He won the election outright with 52% of the vote, wiping out the Democratic runner-up’s 26%.

While not everyone wanted Landry for the job, many agree he has kept his campaign promises — whether they support the policy or not.

“I’m not surprised, this is exactly what I expected when he became governor,” said Chris Dier, a high school teacher in New Orleans who has opposed many of Landry’s initiatives. “I think a lot of the conversations before he became governor were about, how do we respond to certain pieces of legislation if they are passed?”

Fancy a bigger stage?

In a time of Trump-era conservatives, some believe Landry could follow in the footsteps of other high-profile governors — by becoming a national figure or running for higher office. His eagerness to introduce state-of-the-art legislation, his willingness to engage in and participate in national struggles, and his propensity to advocate media coverage mirror the tactics used by other politicians occupying the national stage enter.

Pearson Cross, a political science professor at the University of Louisiana, points to Texas Governor Greg Abbott and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis as examples of where Landry could go.

“I think Jeff Landry feels very comfortable with that kind of profile. I think he feels like he’s standing up for the state and representing his constituents, who tend to be conservative — and perhaps pushing back against the overreach of the federal government,” Cross said.

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Like Abbott, Landry served as attorney general for many years before becoming governor. He also, like DeSantis, spent time in the U.S. House of Representatives, albeit with a much shorter tenure.

But Landry, whose office declined an interview request from The Associated Press, has given little indication of where his future ambitions lie.

He recently joined Abbott and other Republican governors in Eagle Pass, a Texas city that has become the center of an immigration enforcement battle, to discuss the border crisis. He also headlined the Tennessee Republican Party’s annual fundraising dinner in Nashville last weekend.

He also signed a bill that withholds details about his schedule and/or that of his spouse or children from public records for security reasons. While this is not unusual, opponents argue the law will be used to hide who Landry meets and where he travels.

In the meantime, there is a lot of discussion in the Capitol about whether Landry will be offered a cabinet position if Trump wins the presidential elections in the fall. Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said there had been no discussions about who would serve in the administration. But that doesn’t stop people from speculating.

“I think he has that (national recognition) and because it helps our state I’m certainly happy about that, but I don’t want that to lead to him leaving for a cabinet position,” Johnson said. “But I think Louisiana has so much to offer, and if he can be an ambassador at the national level, then I think that’s definitely a positive.”

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