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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Louisiana, the "Top Two," and Other Things

This is more of what I wrote in my exchange with Jim R from Texas at Ballot Access News.

David Duke, the ex-Ku Klux Klan leader, did as well as he did in the 1990 and 1991 elections because there was a lot of economic discontent and anti-incumbent sentiment. Embarrassed by the Duke candidacy in 1990, the Republicans wanted to avoid a runoff at all costs. The GOP-backed Senate candidate made little headway and dropped out on the eve of the election. The GOP leadership wound up backing the Democratic incumbent, Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, who won with 54 percent.

The Democrat Edwin Edwards beat David Treen in the February 1972 general election for governor. I don’t recall Treen having had GOP primary opposition, but if he did, it was weak.

Gov. Edwards got the idea for the “top two” (popularly called the “open primary”) from Mississippi, whose legislature had passed it in 1966 and 1970–- and would pass it again in 1975, 1976, and 1979. Louisiana began using the “top two” for state and local elections in 1975 and for congressional elections in 1978.

Edwards lost his popularity during his third term, 1984-1988. He had been tried a time or two for bribery, and Louisiana had been hurt by the recession in the oil industry. Buddy Roemer did get Republican votes for governor in 1987, but in that election system, what difference does it make? All the candidates might just as well be independents.

Given Gov. Edwards’s unpopularity in 1987, he could not have won 50-plus percent in a Democratic primary, if there had been party primaries. He refused a runoff with Roemer because he knew Roemer would pulverize him.

Jim Brown, who also ran for governor in 1987, is the father of CNN’s Campbell Brown. He later served as insurance commissioner and also served time in federal prison.

Buddy Roemer was a lousy, failed governor. He switched to the Republicans in March 1991 after the first President Bush and the national GOP promised him support. Edwards benefited in 1991 from the weakness of the competition. A lot of Louisianans held their noses and voted for Edwards in his runoff race with Duke.

David Duke could NEVER have gotten 50-plus percent in a statewide GOP primary.

I don’t see how you reached the conclusion that Bobby Jindal (GIN-dle) might not have become governor, especially since he almost beat the Democrat Kathleen Blanco in 2003. The big majority of Louisianans care little about party labels, particularly at the state and local levels.

Mike Foster, age 65 and a lifelong Democrat, switched to the GOP in the fall of 1995 and was elected governor shortly afterward. For a time, it had appeared that two Republicans– Foster and ex-Gov. Roemer– would meet in the runoff, but Roemer faded near the end and finished fourth.

Cleo Fields could not have gotten 50-plus percent in a statewide Democratic primary in 1995.

“The premise behind party primaries is that only members may participate in the selection of candidates, that they will then support in the general election.”

In the states which have party primaries, and which do not mandate open primaries, each party decides which voters may participate in its primaries (the exception is that the state may prohibit parties from inviting members of opposing parties into their primaries). When a party allows non-members into its primary, it HOPES that they will back the party’s nominees in the general election.

The Mississippi Democrats are challenging the state-mandated open primary because they want to be able to block Republicans from voting in Democratic primaries. The Democrats have made it clear on several occasions that, if their lawsuit succeeds, they will invite independents into Democratic primaries. The Republicans, in contrast, will keep GOP primaries open to ALL voters.

In California Democratic Party v. Jones, Justice Antonin Scalia had a suggestion for voters in areas in which elections are decided in one party’s primary: JOIN THE PARTY. Why should someone who steadfastly refuses to join a party be allowed to help nominate that party’s candidates– unless the party invites him to do so?

Remember that, in all those years before we had party primaries, grassroots voters could only vote (directly) in general elections.

The bottom line: if the “top two” is such a fantastic idea, why is Washington only the second state to use it for all of its state and congressional elections? And don't forget that Louisiana has restored party primaries for its congressional elections.

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