September 29, 2023 9:00am

Most Power Poll voters back John Bel Edwards' clemency attempts, say Josh Guillory is vulnerable

Over 40% back the governor's efforts to mostly empty out death row, give the outgoing goveror high grades

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Lafayette, LA Correspondent
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Power Poll Lafayette voters have had time to digest two talking points of late and were pretty loud in their interpretations. A large portion back Gov. John Bel Edwards’ attempt to nearly empty out death row.

Oh, and the race for Lafayette Mayor-President is going to be interesting.

First, the death row topic. More than half of respondents who voted in this month’s poll backed Edwards’ unprecedented effort to have 55 prisoners get their sentences changed from awaiting execution to life in prison without parole, with 42% indicating they strongly support the move.

Just 19% were against it, with only 15% indicating they were strongly against the move.

It’s a move that has spilled out into the courts and into press conferences. It’s garnered opposition from Attorney General Jeff Landry and district attorneys from five parishes have asked the court to stop the clemency proceedings.

Those opposed have cited the support for families of the victims and that the mass filings for clemency violate state statute and go against policies set by the parole board.

On the other side of the argument this week was, of all sources, the Vatican urging Edwards to grant the clemency requests.

The term-limited Edwards, nearing the end of his governorship, has supported the clemency petitions, and advocates hope to push them through before he leaves office in January.

“Clemency is so controversial but still seems to end with the age-old question: Does anyone have the right to end life,” wrote civic activist Mary Neiheisel.

The Power Poll results were different than a recent statewide poll that indicated 51% of voters opposed Edwards’ move while 41% backed it with 8% undecided.

Regardless of what happens after Edwards leaves office, the issue won’t likely go away. The state has executed only one inmate in the last 21 years, and it was a voluntary execution. Nationally, it’s an issue that is growing larger as 23 states now have ended capital punishment.

Asked for their take on the issue, 47% of Power Poll voters described the death penalty as a flawed system with innocent people sometimes facing execution, while 18% defined it as cruel and inhumane. Another 18% said it’s caught up in a political gridlock, and 15% said it’s either an effective means to deal with violent offenders or is not being used enough.

If the matter was put on the ballot, nearly a third of Power Poll voters think it would be a toss-up as to which side would prevail. The rest of the voting broke down like this:

  • 22% thought it would just barely pass to end it.
  • 20% thought it would have strong support to end it.
  • 14% thought it would just barely fail to end it.
  • 12% thought there would be overwhelming support to keep it.

Asked to give Edwards an overall grade on his eight years in office – a moderate Democrat in a state that has leaned heavily Republican in recent years – Power Poll voters graded him favorably: 34% gave him a B, 25% an A, 23% a C, 10% a D and 7% a F.

Mayor-President question: The race for Mayor-President in Lafayette Parish has gotten hot in a hurry in recent weeks. A recent poll that indicated incumbent Josh Guillory would be “quite vulnerable” if he gets into a runoff with either challenger Monique Boulet or Jan Swift drew the ire of Guillory, who blasted it as “patently biased” and questioned the integrity of outlets who “report it as fact.”

One group behind the poll was Vantage Data House, which has a distant family connection to Boulet, although Boulet said the poll was not conducted for her.

Many Power Poll votes – over half of which predicted a Guillory win back in July -- agree with the recent poll's results. Asked if Guillory is vulnerable in his re-election bid, 41% said very much so while 29% said somewhat. Only 15% said it’s not likely, and 8% said they were not sure and only 7% said not at all.

On the gridlock in Congress: Asked whether or not they think the federal government is headed for a shutdown come Monday, 57% said no and 43% predicted a shutdown is coming. Use the chart below to view results of the same question from a few of our other Power Poll markets.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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