Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The jungle primary

September 28, 2019

Louisiana is leading the way to a more secure future.”

— Gov. John Bel Edwards

Give me your vote and I’ll always give you my best to keep Louisiana the greatest place in the world to call home ”

— Eddie Rispone

Louisiana is blessed with wonderful natural resources and tough hardworking people who just need the opportunity to succeed.”

— Rep. Ralph Abraham

Though Louisiana is a deeply red state that voted for President Trump by 20 points in 2016, the gubernatorial election is conducted as a “jungle primary,” a system unique to Louisiana. In this primary, all candidates, regardless of party, run against each other. 

If one candidate emerges with upwards of 50% of the vote, that candidate will be elected, and there will be no further contest. If no candidate reaches that threshold, another election will be held between the top two finishers in the primary.

The danger for Republicans, in a state as red as Louisiana, is that the conservative candidates will split the Republican vote and the most popular Democrat will emerge victorious. That, in fact, is exactly how Edwards emerged victorious in the last cycle, making him the only Democratic governor in the Deep South.

In 2015 the Republican contenders then-Sen. David Vitter, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne essentially counted Edwards out, doubting a Democrat could pull out a victory in red Louisiana. They aired attack ads against each other, split Republican funding and support and ultimately did enough damage to each other that Edwards slid into the first runoff spot with Vitter limping in after him. 

The hits Vitter had already taken coupled with an uncovered prostitution scandal allowed Edwards to win by 10%. It seems that, four years later, the Grand Old Party is making the same mistake again. On Sept. 17, 2019, Eddie Rispone launched an opposition TV advertisement campaign against Abraham, his fellow Republican. 

Two polls in the state show that Edwards will place atop the primary election but earn less than 50% of the total vote. In potential matchups, two state polls each have Edwards either tying Abraham or beating him by 4% and show Edwards beating Rispone by 5% and 11%, respectively.

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