Louisiana kicks off 2007 gov races

Click here to see the Stateline.org interactive guide to the 2007 elections (Flash)

The country could have its first new governor of the 2007 elections this Saturday (Oct. 20) if U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) holds on to his lead and wins a majority of the vote in Louisiana's gubernatorial primary. But the decision could hinge on a football game.
Only in Louisiana, known for its peculiar election laws and devotion to college football, could a Louisiana State University football game once again play a role in deciding the victor in a governor's race.
Jindal is worried that voters will be so distracted by this Saturday's LSU-Auburn University football game - held the same day as the primary - that they will forget to vote.
The last time Jindal made a bid for the governor's mansion in 2003, the LSU Tigers played the Crimson Tide in Alabama on Election Day. "I can't tell you how many people came up to me and said, `I was going to vote for you, but I went to the game,'" Jindal told The Associated Press earlier this month.
Jindal had been leading in the polls in 2003 but lost to Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). She opted not to run for re-election this year after she was roundly criticized for her performance in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
In addition to the college football game, Oct. 20 also is the first day of deer season for several areas in the state. "People are always worried about LSU and hunting coinciding on weekends in which elections are held," said Kurt Corbello, associate professor of political science and director of the Southeastern Louisiana University's recent polls on the race .
Louisiana is one of three states electing governors this year, but the Bayou State is the only one in which a candidate can win outright by garnering more than 50 percent of the ballots cast in the primary. Kentucky and Mississippi have already held their primaries and will elect governors Election Day Nov. 6. 
In Kentucky, voters will decide whether to give Gov. Ernie Fletcher (R), who has been dogged by a hiring scandal for the past two years, another term in office, or to oust him and elect former Lt. Gov. Steve Beshear, a Democrat. And in the first election since Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Republican Gov. Haley Barbour of Mississippi appears in a strong position to best Democrat John Eaves, an attorney.
Jindal has been hovering around the 50 percent mark in recent polls. "I can't say it's a done deal, but it's moving in that direction," said Bernie Pinsonat, a partner with the Southern Media and Opinion Research , a polling company in Baton Rouge. Pinsonat said the candidates have done a good job reminding voters that the primary and LSU game are on the same day .
If Jindal wins Saturday, he would become the first Indian American governor and only the third Louisianan gubernatorial candidate in more than 50 years to win the office without a runoff, said Henry Robertson who heads the history and political science division at Louisiana College in Pineville, La,. "That's a really important milestone." Jindal, a Rhodes Scholar, was born in Baton Rouge of parents who emigrated from India.
Others who were victorious in a primary were Edwin Washington Edwards, a scandal-tainted four-term governor who eventually went to prison on extortion charges but who won outright in 1976, and Earl K. Long, brother of legendary Louisiana Gov. Huey P. Long, who did it in 1956. Both were Democrats.
If Jindal fails to post a majority, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, will square off Nov. 17. Jindal's competitors include Democratic state Sen. Walter Boasso, who was a Republican until recently; Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell (D) and John Georges (Independent).
This year may be the last time Louisianans get to vote this way. Observers are closely watching a case before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding Washington's primary system , which has a similar "top-two" run-off system. If the Washington system gets tossed out, some expect a legal challenge in Louisiana.
Louisianans know only too very well that their unusual primary scheme sometimes can benefit fringe candidates. In the 1991 gubernatorial race, one of the two top vote-getters was David Duke, former leader of the Ku Klux Klan, who ran as a Republican. "There's no way the hierarchy of the Republican Party wanted Duke running as a Republican," Corbello of Southeastern Louisiana University, said. Duke then lost to Edwards in the runoff.
Even without a lawsuit, voting for federal offices in Louisiana will change next year. The Legislature voted last year to let only registered members of political parties vote in primary contests for federal offices, but left the open primary system for state and local elections.
The 2007 election also marks the first time that term limits hit the Louisiana Legislature, threatening more Democrats than Republicans and putting the GOP in striking distance of taking control of the one of the Statehouse chambers for the first time since Reconstruction. In the Louisiana House, for example, 29 of 63 Democrats will get booted out because of term limits compared to only 16 of 41 current Republican House members. All legislative seats in Mississippi, New Jersey and Virginia also are on the ballot this year but are not affected by term limits.
V oters in Louisiana also will take up four constitutional amendments Saturday. Two of the measures affect salaries for police officers; another focuses on the administration of state and city retirement benefits and another would exempt jewelry from property taxes.
Those ballot measures are among nearly 40 that voters in seven states will take up this fall. Oregon, for example, will weigh in on property rights; stem cell research is on tap in New Jersey, and Utahans will decide whether they want to launch the nation's broadest statewide education voucher program.

Related Stories

    • Stateline Story
    September 2, 2008
    image description

    Sept. 2, 2008, 1:30 p.m. EDTST. PAUL, Minn. - Hurricane Gustav forced some of the biggest stars in the Republican Party to stay at home to help their consitutents battle the storm that many feared would rival Hurricane Katrina of just three years ago.   But four of the five affected southern Republican governors addressed the opening session of the 2008 Republican National Convention Monday (Sept. 1) via taped messages. "I'm sure you can understand why Gov. Jindal couldn't participate," first lady Laura Bush said as she introduced the taped messages, referring to Republican Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal as his state was being pounded by Gustav's strong winds and rain.   Jindal had been rumored to be, among others, on Republican John McCain's shortlist of possible vice presidential picks before the senator chose Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.   President Bush had been scheduled to address the delegates Monday but instead went to Texas to monitor the storm. The administration had been widely criticized for its handling of Hurricane Katrina. Some Republicans, notably Texas Gov. Rick Perry, stressed that the GOP was ready. "You're seeing Republican governors ... doing a fabulous job of taking care of the citizens. That's what we do," he said via videotape.Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Hurricane Gustav   The first lady also noted the governors of the affected states "happen to be Republicans," which drew a thunderous applause from the delegates at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul.   Florida Charlie Crist, another Republican governor who also was seen as a possible VP candidate, took a less partisan approach in his remarks, remembering his experience during last month's Tropical Storm Fay: "As I traveled our state in the days following Fay's landfall, I was reminded again of the resilience and strength of our people. The kindness they extend to one another. Neighbor helping neighbor. Asking not what party you are, but instead how you can help."   Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour also gave videotaped messages. Governor Jindal said Monday that seven states are helping Louisiana to shelter more than 29,000 citizens at 107 shelters. Texas has offered to shelter several thousand patients, Oklahoma has agreed to accept 4,000 general evacuees, and 150 medical patients from southwest Louisiana hospitals are expected to arrive at the Oklahoma Air National Guard Base at Will Rogers Airport in Oklahoma City today.   The state Republican chairmen from Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas formed a working group "to regularly brief their delegates and convention planners, provide access to timely information and assistance, and give input on appropriate steps that can be taken from Minnesota."   The McCain 2008 campaign also agreed to charter a DC-9 to transport delegates who wished to return to home to their states.AFTER THE JUMP: More video footage of the governors on Hurricane Gustav.   - Pamela M. Prah Comments

    • Stateline Story
    October 22, 2007
    image description

    Louisiana voters elected the country's first governor of Indian descent Saturday (Oct. 20) and gave the Republican Party control of yet another state executive suite in the South. Bobby Jindal also will become the youngest sitting governor at 36.

    • Stateline Story
    December 18, 2013
    Tax Cuts, Tax Reform to Resurface in 2014 Statehouses image description

    To simplify tax systems and spur economic growth, some state officials will propose reforms or outright cuts next year. more

    • Stateline Story
    October 18, 2013
    Storm, Scandal Send Christie and McDonnell in Different Directions image description

    They once were a GOP dream team. Now, Virginia Gov. Robert McDonnell is leaving office under a cloud while New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is advancing towards a second term and a possible White House bid. more

    • Stateline Story
    June 5, 2012
    image description

    In one of the busiest election days of 2012 and one of the most historic, voters in Wisconsin decided not to recall their Republican governor who set off a national debate by curtailing collective bargaining rights for state public employees. Voters in six other states also went to the polls. more