ON OCTOBER 24th voters in Louisiana will send two men to a run-off that will determine the state’s next governor. That vote will take place in November, but it is the first election—known as an open or “jungle” primary—that really counts. This year, anyway.
In a jungle primary, candidates compete in a scrum, regardless of party, and the top two move on. The effect of such a system can be unpredictable, varying with the size of the field and the politics of each candidate. Sometimes, it can boost those at the fringes. In 1991, much to Louisiana’s embarrassment, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke and a flamboyantly corrupt governor, Edwin Edwards, managed to capture so many of the votes at the margins that the two of them met in a run-off, spawning a raft of rueful bumper stickers. (Among them: “Vote For the Lizard, Not the Wizard.”) The unfortunate centrist squeezed out that year was the incumbent governor, Buddy Roemer, who had become increasingly unpopular—but whom most Louisianians still probably wished they could have picked when it came to it.
This year, the fringes are not so extreme, but there is a similar dynamic at play, to the...Continue reading