Editorial Roundup: Louisiana

The Advocate. November 14, 2022.

Editorial: Endorsements from insider clubs, GOP or Democratic, may be political losers

Louisiana’s wide-open election system isn’t good for either party, Republican or Democrat.

Or at least for the party organizations, both wanting a clear-cut system like that in most states. That’s when each party’s registered voters choose a nominee via primary or caucuses, and the two survivors fight it out on general election day.

In Louisiana, anybody with about a grand to spare can run for major office. There were a dozen challengers Tuesday, for example, to U.S. Sen. John N. Kennedy, who won a new term handily despite the cloud of other names on the ballot.

While the issue of party primaries versus our “open” primary has been hotly debated, neither party has been able to persuade legislators to change the Louisiana system, at least permanently. For one thing, voters seem to like having choices, even if it makes the ballots longer. For another thing, there’s a bad odor of insider trading by powerbrokers in the party organizations.

That’s why the Republican Party leadership took flak last week when its executive committee — fewer than a dozen members, the club within the club — endorsed Attorney General Jeff Landry, the only announced candidate for governor to date. That election isn’t for a year and a slew of powerful Republican officeholders say they’re thinking about running.

That this was done without even a meeting of the full State Central Committee of 230 members offended some of them; other potential GOP candidates also denounced the executive committee’s fiat.

Both party organizations have had trouble with endorsements this year. Democratic Party leaders wanted to unite behind a White candidate, Luke Mixon, against Kennedy. The party insiders themselves balked at this, as there were a couple of Black candidates on the ballot. All that did was expose the longstanding racial splits within the ranks.

A lesson from the GOP’s latest episode, and also a lesson for the Democratic version of the political club, is that if you don’t have a credible process for choosing the “official” standard bearer, you risk doing more harm than good for your choice in the public eye.