‘LaPolitics:’ Intraparty showdowns, nicknames on the legislative uptick

    Elephant against elephant, donkey against donkey: Of the 96 legislative races on Louisiana’s October primary ballot, 42 will pit members of the same party against each other. The tally includes 25 all-GOP House and Senate elections and another 17 races with nothing but Democrats, based on last week’s qualifying process and related information compiled by the Secretary of State’s Office. That means about 44% of all of the competitive legislative elections this cycle—or those with two or more contenders—will come down to intraparty battles. Consultants and other campaign professionals suggest it’s an unprecedented figure, and that the trend is strengthening. 

    What does it mean? The uptick in intraparty legislative races signals a transition to full partisanship in the Legislature, which has experienced a gradual but aggressive Republican takeover during the past three election cycles. In other words, the transition and segmentation are complete—or, as Baton Rouge pollster Bernie Pinsonat is fond of saying, if a Capitol politician is in the middle, that politician is probably roadkill. On both sides of the aisle, it no longer matters whether a candidate is a Democrat or a Republican, Pinsonat and others have noted; what matters now is how Republican or how Democratic candidates appear.

    The big picture: A larger drive for this R vs. R and D vs. D development has been Louisiana’s unique open primary system, also referred to by some as a jungle primary system, where all candidates are pitted against each other on the same ballot, regardless of party. Last year, Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Louis Gurvich offered up an op-ed to newspapers around the state last year complaining about the only statewide race on the ballot in 2018. That’s when a special election was called for the secretary of state, but Gurvich’s could have well been reserved for the ongoing cycle. “Until that hallowed day when the return to closed primaries finally dawns in Louisiana,” he wrote, “We as a party must also insist that potential Republican candidates carefully assess their chances of winning before declaring for any race.” Democratic Party officials in the state have pushed for a return to the open primary system as well, although more sparingly and usually in regard to only federal elections. Fabio Franchino and Francesco Zucchini, upon publishing their related studies in Political Science Research and Methods journal, noted that two major U.S. parties were best described as “loose organizations that let their politicians enjoy substantial autonomy.” They also reasoned—in an explanation that was fashioned to fit Washington’s framework more than Baton Rouge’s—that “the executive does not need the support of a majority party in the legislature to survive and thus does not need to discipline legislators.”

    What’s in a name? Candidates for office in Louisiana are allowed to put their nicknames on the ballot, in quotes and within reason, which sometimes helps them win races or at least get attention. At the top of the ticket in the governor’s race, there’s Patrick “Live Wire” Landry, who shouldn’t be confused with the live wire incumbent attorney general. Jeff Landry, who’s running in his own race. Michael “Big Mike” Fesi of Houma is running in Senate District 20, but he is not running in HD 78, because that’s John “Big John” Illg Jr. of Metairie, who is actually facing off against the artist stylings of Ralph “Rem” Brandt of Jefferson. 

    Here are a few others from Louisiana’s legislative races: R.A. “Skip” Galan in SD 10, Fred  “T-Fred” Mills in SD 22, “Dodie” Horton in HD 9, Alicia “Cocoa” Calvin in HD 17, “Phil Cowboy” Lemoine in HD 38, Jerome “Zee” Zeringue in HD 52, Joshua “Fini” Hajiakbarifini in HD 68, Cammie “Yogi” Maturin in HD 96 and Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste in HD 97. 

    They said it: “They end up doing nothing.”—Former Gov. Edwin Edwards, commenting on the current crop of elected politicians in America, as he turned 92, in The Advocate. 

    “If you like Louisiana politics, you gotta love Jefferson Parish these days.”—GAMBIT’s Clancy DuBos, after the parish president decided to not seek re-election the sheriff’s race became a rematch.

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