Connect with us


Legislators consider Louisiana abandoning current ‘jungle’ mixed system for primaries



LOUISIANA – Louisiana state legislators have formed a task force to consider if the state should abandon a current primary political system where a candidate for office runs against every other candidate regardless of political party, referred to as a “jungle system.”

State Sen. Sharon Hewitt (R-Dist.1) who is chair of the task force told the Louisiana Record that Louisiana is one of the few states in the country with a “jungle primary.”

“We may be one of two states with a jungle primary system,” Hewitt said. “The jungle primary is in November. In all the other states that’s their general election.”

The question is, should the state convert back to a “closed” primary system where candidates run only against candidates of their own party, and in which only members of the same party vote. Under that system, once a party candidate is picked in a primary, the candidate would then go on to run in a general election in which all voters decide who will hold the public office.

Hewitt said Louisiana’s rare open “jungle” system means that if a candidate does not get a 50% plus one vote in November, it goes to a runoff race in December.

She indicated this can cause its own peculiar problems.

“Our congressional member ends up being the last one elected, and the last one seated to the U.S. House of Representatives,” she said. “Everything is done on a seniority basis in Washington, so our guy is at least a month behind everyone else in terms of seniority.”

As a result she said a late-comer Congressional representative from Louisiana could get last pick on committees, office space and hired staff. A late comer could also miss orientations, leadership elections, and fail to establish important connections with colleagues.

“It puts our state quite honestly at a disadvantage,” Hewitt said.

Hewitt said that with just 30 days between Louisiana’s primary and general elections, more time is needed, time that other states have.

The State Legislature will decide the issue, not voters. Hewitt said there appears to be bipartisan support among Democrats and Republicans on the issue of going to a closed primary.

“There was great support in the task force for moving our election so that our general election would be in November, the same time as all the other states,” she said.

Hewitt added that the state needs to have a primary where if a race is not settled, a general election would still be held in November.

“The best way to do that is with a closed party primary,” she said.

Hewitt said she will sponsor a bill to do whatever recommendation comes out of the task force.

“The deadline to file bills is April 1, so it’s all going to have to happen this month,” she said.

In a March 1 op-ed piece for The Hayride, Republican Party Chair Louis Gurvich said the current “jungle” system was put in place in Louisiana in 1975, backed by Democrats.

The rationale Gurvich said was that Democrats didn’t like battling other Democrats in one-party-only primaries. In addition, Democrats felt that because Republicans selected candidates in caucuses, they could be well-funded and have the luxury of resting while competing Democrats slugged it out in brutal primary contests.

It came down to political gain, Gurvich contended.

“Democrat politicians did not want voters to have a real choice of candidates who actually held, God forbid, differing views on how to govern,” he said.

Gurvich said an early beneficiary of the “open” system was Edwin Edwards, a Democrat and U.S. Congressman during the 1970s, as well as governor of the state for four terms from 1972-1996.

Gurvich indicated that common sense calls for a return to the closed party primary system.

“Why can’t the members of a political party, which is after all a private organization, decide who their candidate will be? It is, after all, their party, is it not?” he asked.