By: Jacob Longman
October 24, 2015 is Election Day. Louisiana is the only state in the union to have a gubernatorial jungle primary. Put simply, a jungle primary pits all individuals running against each other. If no one gets fifty percent of the vote, a runoff is held between the top two challengers regardless of party.
The nature of this gives Louisiana a very unique political situation. In short, it is not uncommon for two members of the same party to engage in a slugfest in the general election and this year is no exception. With Super Pac funding, a first for gubernatorial races in Louisiana, the tone of the race quickly turned acidic.
All the of the candidates have a plethora of political experience. Republican David Vitter is a Senator and fellow Republican Jay Dardenne is the Lieutenant Governor. John Bel Edwards, the House Minority Leader, is the lone Democrat with Scott Angelle, Louisiana Public Service Commissioner, rounding out the top four as the third Republican.
In a testimony to the strength of the institution, two of the four candidates are Paul M. Hebert Law Center graduates, and both have had storied political careers.
John Bel Edwards is the first. One of eight children, Edwards was born in Amite to a political family. Edwards graduated from Amite High as valedictorian. He then attended United States Military Academy at West Point where he served on the cadet honor board. Graduating as an Engineering Officer, he served for eight years before returning to Louisiana and attending the Law Center. After graduation, he practiced law in Amite.
Edwards waited 9 years after graduating from the Law Center to run for the Louisiana House of Representatives. He won by overwhelming majority, and has since risen steadily up the political ladder. He is the minority leader and also chairs the Veterans Affairs Committee.
Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne is the other PMH graduate. A native of Baton Rouge, Dardenne graduated from Baton Rouge Magnet High and attended LSU, graduating with a degree in Journalism. After undergrad, Dardenne went on to PMH and was Student Body President. From there, Dardenne went into politics.
Unlike Edwards, Dardenne’s rise up the political ladder hasn’t been without stumbles. Dardenne was defeated in his first election, losing a State Senate race to Democrat Larry Bankston by less than 300 votes. Undaunted, Dardenne ran again for another office, winning a seat on the East Baton Rouge Metropolitan Council.
While on the Metropolitan Council, Dardenne ran for the State Senate a second time. Portraying himself as an alternative to the status quo, Dardenne quickly established himself as an opponent to the Edwards Administration. He subsequently ran for Secretary of State and Lieutenant Governor, winning both. A moderate Republican, Dardenne took the office of the Secretary of State with broad support in the city of New Orleans, traditionally a solid Democrat voting bloc. It’s worth noting that Dardenne is Jewish and, if elected, stands to be become the first Jewish Governor of Louisiana.
While from different political parties, both Edwards and Dardenne lean toward the center of the political spectrum more than the extreme wings. Dardenne was key in the passage of the Stelly Plan in 2002, which raised taxes on those with higher incomes and lowered taxes for those at the bottom. Segments of Louisiana’s Republican Party were adamantly opposed to Stelly and in the years after its passage the plan has been significantly curbed.
Edwards, despite being a member of the Democratic Party, is anti-abortion and anti-gun control. While he maintains close ties to teachers unions, it’s notable that as of Mid-October, the Governor of New Orleans, Democrat Mitch Landrieu, has not endorsed Edwards despite his place as the sole Democrat in the gubernatorial race.
Election day is going to be a knock down, drag out affair. Presumptive frontrunner Senator David Vitter, a Republican, has collapsed, and recent polls show that any of his three major challengers would offer him major problems in a runoff. Edwards appears poised to push into the runoff because unlike the Republican voting bloc, the Democratic vote will not be split. Combine that with the quality of the competition and, despite polls showing record voter apathy, the race for the Governor’s Mansion looks to be up in the air. This means it’s plausible that either Dardenne or Edwards could be the next Governor of Louisiana. The Paul M. Hebert Law Center looks to be well represented by either.
UPDATE: Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards (D) and U.S. Senator David Vitter (R) will be facing each other in a runoff election November 21, 2015. For information and statistics regarding the results of the October 24th election, visit the Secretary of State’s website.