Republican Party of Louisiana
The Republican Party of Louisiana (French: Parti républicain de Louisiane) is the U.S. state of Louisiana‘s organization of the national Republican Party. The state chairman is Louis Gurvich, a businessman from New Orleans, who was elected on February 24, 2018. Since the late 20th century, conservatives in the states have mostly shifted to the Republican Party from the Democratic Party. As of 2016, every statewide elected official in Louisiana, with the exception of the governor, is a Republican.
The Republican Party of Louisiana was founded as the “Friends of Universal Suffrage” on November 4, 1865, by a group of whites, free men of color, and newly emancipated freedmen led by Benjamin Flanders. He had been an Alderman of New Orleans from 1847 to 1852. Constitutional amendments after the American Civil War granted citizenship and suffrage to freedmen, most of whom affiliated with the Republican Party that had gained their freedom. Among the achievements of the biracial state legislature during the Reconstruction era was founding public education and some charitable institutions.
Threatened by black majorities in several areas and unhappy with the outcome of the war, white insurgents challenged voting by blacks, and elections were increasingly disrupted by violence and fraud in the period of 1868 through the Reconstruction era. Chapters of the White League arose across the state in the 1874 as a white militia that worked for the Democratic Party to achieve the overthrow of the Reconstruction government. Notable extreme events of white violence against blacks in this period were the Colfax Massacre and the Coushatta Massacre. In addition, armed Democratic forces of the White League occupied New Orleans and took over state offices (then located in the city) after the disputed gubernatorial election of 1872.
In 1898 the Democratic-dominated Louisiana legislature followed Mississippi (and other Southern states) in passing a new constitution and laws with provisions that created barriers to voter registration and voting by blacks in the state, and also adversely affected many poor whites. These provisions included a poll tax, literacy test, grandfather clauses and similar requirements that were applied in a discriminatory manner against African Americans. They were essentially excluded from the political system for decades, depleting the Republican Party. The Democratic white-dominated state legislature passed racial segregation and other Jim Crow laws that enforced second-class status for African Americans.
Disenfranchisement of African Americans kept the Republican Party hollowed out well into the 20th century. In the first part of the 20th century up to 1970, tens of thousands of blacks left Louisiana for northern and western states in the Great Migration, contributing to changes in demographics of some areas of the state. As leaders of the national Democratic Party had supported the civil rights movement, after African Americans regained the power to vote and re-entered politics, most affiliated with the Democratic Party.
Since the late 20th century, the Republican Party in Louisiana and other southern states has had a resurgence fed by the movement of white conservatives from the Democratic Party to its ranks. This change was seen first in their voting for Republican presidential candidates, in states across the South.
Until the early 1950s, when blacks were still disenfranchised, no Republican won a single electoral vote in any Louisiana presidential election. But in 1956, the state supported national hero and Republican presidential candidate General Dwight David Eisenhower, who was admired for his leadership in World War II. His was the first of nine Republican presidential victories in the state among the 14 presidential campaigns from 1956 to 2008 inclusive.
Since the 1990s, Louisiana’s U.S. House delegation has overall had a Republican tilt, and the number of Republicans elected to both houses of the Louisiana legislature has increased incrementally. As of 2009, Republicans had not had the majority in either the Louisiana House or state Senate since the Reconstruction era. The first Republicans elected to the state house in Louisiana in the 20th century were Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O’Hearn in 1964, the year that the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed. The next year the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, ensuring that African Americans would again be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote in Louisiana and other states. The first Republican elected to the State Senate in Louisiana in the 20th century was Edwards Barham in 1975.
Although it was years before Republicans commanded a majority of the state house, they often secured important leadership posts. A notable example is John Hainkel, the first person in U.S. history to have been elected by his peers in any state legislature as both Speaker of the House and as President of the Senate.
David C. Treen was elected as governor in 1979; he was the first Republican elected to the office since the Reconstruction era. had made the first serious Republican gubernatorial campaign in 1964, when blacks were still disenfranchised. He drew a then record 37.5 percent of the general white election vote. Drawing on increasing support in the state, Republicans have won the Louisiana governorship most of the time since Treen’s election.
In 2004 David Vitter, a U.S. representative, was elected as Louisiana’s first Republican United States Senator since the Reconstruction era, disenfranchisement at the turn of the century, and realignment of political parties in the state. As of 2010 the Republican Party holds all of the statewide elected offices, which include Governor Bobby Jindal, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, Secretary of State Tom Schedler, State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy, Attorney General , Commissioner of Agriculture & Forestry Mike Strain, and Commissioner of Insurance .
In 2009 election of Republican former U.S. Representative Clyde C. Holloway to the Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC), which regulates utility companies, gave that body its first-ever Republican majority. In 2010, Republicans gained a majority of both houses of the Louisiana state legislature for the first time since Reconstruction, when party affiliations were quite different.
The Republican Party of Louisiana is represented by its 144-member State Central Committee, which is established in the Louisiana Election Code, essentially Title 18 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes (LRS). LRS Title 18 also provides for the Parish Executive Committee within each civil parish (county). The 144 members are based on the 105 state representatives and 39 state senators. Both committees are elected by party members in public elections set by law. Although not naming the parties, the Louisiana Election Code describes them in terms of requirements to be counted among the “recognized political parties.” Besides the Republican Party, the only other party which routinely meets these requirements is the Democratic Party. Within each civil parish a representative of each recognized party’s Parish Executive Committee serves on the Parish Board of Election Supervisors.
The State Central Committee attempts to coordinate the efforts of the parish executive committees and related organizations.
The family unit is the foundation of the nation and ties together significant aspects of society. The party believes that marriage is a union between one man and woman; it opposes same-sex marriage and adoption of children by same-sex couples. It opposes abortion, urging single mothers to give up children for adoption if unable to raise them. The protection of all unborn children is supported.
The state party believes in the importance of education, through public, private, religious or home-schooling. The party supports the “No Child Left Behind” law. Including the Pledge of Allegiance and the showing of the American flag in school classrooms are both supported. The party believes that students should not be allowed to receive sex education without prior approval from parents. Also, the party believes students should be educated on the ideal of abstinence until marriage.
The state party supports the War on Terror and the actions of American troops overseas. The party supports spending cuts as a viable solution to maintaining the federal budget. The party supports preserving Social Security and making health care accessible to citizens by providing an array of affordable options to individuals. Public assistance is supported, as so long as it is earned by members of society through the means of employment. The party supports the expulsion of illegal aliens.
The state party believes that law and order is one of the utmost responsibilities of government, in that it ensures the protection of life, liberty and freedom for society as a whole. The party supports capital punishment, believing that its use should be reserved as a sentence for the most atrocious criminal acts.
The state party believes that the government should enable citizens to attain jobs and a living wage. In times when the U.S. is suffering economically, the party supports the reduction of government spending.
- 1872: William Pitt Kellogg is elected as the Republican governor of Louisiana. The election results are disputed by the Democrats, who take over state offices in New Orleans for several days with an armed occupation.
- 1876: Democrat Francis T. Nicholls wins the governorship in an election whose results are disputed by Republican Stephen B. Packard, as it was marked by violence and fraud to suppress African-American voting.
- 1928: Etienne J. Caire of St. John the Baptist Parish polls 4 percent of the vote in a race for governor against Huey Pierce Long, Jr. A full Republican slate runs with Caire, the first time since Reconstruction that the party had sought to fill all statewide offices. African Americans have largely been disenfranchised since the turn of the century and are excluded from the political system.
- 1948: Clem S. Clarke, an oilman from Shreveport, tries unsuccessfully to meld the Thomas E. Dewey and Strom Thurmond supporters at the presidential level behind his own candidacy for the U.S. Senate against Democrat Russell B. Long, a son of Huey Long. Clarke in 1948 was the first Louisiana Republican nominee for the Senate since the implementation in 1914 of the Seventeenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, authorizing popular election of US Senators, rather than election by state legislatures. African Americans were disenfranchised.
- 1952: Harrison Bagwell, a Baton Rouge lawyer, polled 4 percent of the general election vote for governor against the Democratic nominee, Robert F. Kennon. African Americans were disenfranchised.
- 1956: Dwight Eisenhower becomes the first Republican since Rutherford B. Hayes to win the electoral votes of Louisiana. , a Shreveport Republican, is elected to the Caddo Parish Police Jury. African Americans were disenfranchised.
- 1960: George W. Reese, Jr., a New Orleans lawyer, polls 20 percent of the general election vote against U.S. Senator Allen J. Ellender. He received nearly half of the votes polled in Louisiana by the party’s unsuccessful presidential nominee, Richard M. Nixon. African Americans were still disenfranchised.
- 1961: , a Shreveport oilman, polled 45 percent of the vote in a special election against the Democrat Joe Waggonner for Louisiana’s 4th congressional district seat in the United States House of Representatives. The contest received national attention. The seat opened when Democrat Overton Brooks died in office. African Americans were disenfranchised.
- 1964: Lyons received nearly 38 percent of the general election vote (still essentially whites only) for governor against Democrat John McKeithen. Morley A. Hudson and Taylor W. O’Hearn of Shreveport were the first Republicans since Reconstruction elected to the Louisiana House of Representatives. Later in the year, Barry Goldwater defeats U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson in Louisiana and five other states. African Americans were still disenfranchised.
- 1966: Jack Breaux and of Zachary and Minden, respectively, become the first elected Republican mayors in Louisiana since Reconstruction. Following passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, many African Americans joined the Democratic Party when they entered politics.
- 1968: David C. Treen, a lawyer of Jefferson Parish, waged his third unsuccessful campaign against Democrat Hale Boggs for Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district seat; he polled more than 48 percent of the vote.
- 1972: Treen received 43 percent of the vote for governor against Edwin Edwards. Tom Stagg lost the race for attorney general to . Morley Hudson lost the race for lieutenant governor to Jimmy Fitzmorris.
- 1972: Treen was elected to fill Louisiana’s 3rd congressional district seat over the Democrat J. Louis Watkins, Jr. Republican Ben Toledano loses the U.S. Senate race to J. Bennett Johnston, Jr.
- 1975: Henson Moore of Baton Rouge is elected to Louisiana’s 6th congressional district seat in a special re-run election in January. He succeeded the Democrat John Rarick, who lost re-nomination in the party primary.
- 1976: Republican Frank Spooner nearly upsets Jerry Huckaby in Louisiana’s 5th congressional district for the right to succeed Democratic U.S. Representative Otto Passman.
- 1977: Bob Livingston wins a special election to fill Louisiana’s 1st congressional district seat in suburban New Orleans.
- 1979: David Treen is elected the first Republican governor of Louisiana since the Reconstruction era; he took office in March 1980. He narrowly defeated the Democrat .
- 1983: Treen is ousted after one term as governor by the returning third term of Democrat Edwin Edwards.
- 1986: Henson Moore wages a strong but losing race for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Russell B. Long. Republican Clyde C. Holloway of Rapides Parish becomes the last person elected to Louisiana’s 8th congressional district, since disbanded.
- 1988: Jim McCrery, a Republican, is elected to succeed Buddy Roemer, the incoming governor, as U.S. representative from Louisiana’s 4th congressional district.
- 1988: The Republican National Convention is held at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
- 1989: David Duke, a previous Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, wins a special election for a seat from Jefferson Parish in the Louisiana House of Representatives. He defeats John S. Treen, brother of David Treen. In 1990, Duke ran against U.S. Senator J. Bennett Johnston, Jr., and in 1991, against Edwin Edwards, who returned for a fourth nonconsecutive term as governor. The Republican Party officially endorsed Edwards over the registered Republican, Duke. (He left the United States and has since lived in Austria.)
- 1990: Hazel Beard becomes the first Republican and the first woman to serve as mayor of Shreveport.
- 1995: Democrat-turned-Republican Murphy J. Foster, Jr., is elected to the first of two consecutive terms as governor.
- 1996: Woody Jenkins, a former Democrat from East Baton Rouge Parish, falls short in a disputed race for the U.S. Senate against the Democrat Mary Landrieu for the right to succeed J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. John Cooksey of Monroe becomes the first Republican elected from Louisiana’s 5th congressional district.
- 1999: David Vitter is elected in Louisiana’s 1st congressional district to succeed Bob Livingston, who was exposed in a sex scandal.
- 2003: Bobby Jindal, a Republican and Indian American from Baton Rouge, is defeated in a race for governor by the Democrat Kathleen Blanco.
- 2004: David Vitter is elected in the primary to the U.S. Senate vacated by Democrat John Breaux. Bobby Jindal is elected to succeed Vitter in the 1st congressional district.
- 2007: Jindal wins the first of his two terms as governor.
- 2007: David Vitter was named as a client in the Washington, D.C., prostitution scandal, which he admitted. He won a second Senate term in 2010 and was a candidate for governor in 2015.
- 2008: John Fleming, a physician and businessman from Minden, is narrowly elected to succeed the retiring Jim McCrery in Louisiana’s 4th congressional district.
- 2009: Clyde Holloway wins a special election to the Louisiana Public Service Commission; three of the five commissioners are Republicans. Holloway was named the PSC chairman in 2015.
- 2010: Jeff Landry, a Republican with Tea Party movement support, unseats Democrat Charles Melancon in Louisiana’s 3rd congressional district. Landry was himself unseated in 2012 by fellow Republican Charles Boustany when their two congressional districts are combined through redistricting.
- 2011: Republicans gain control of both houses of the Louisiana State Legislature.
- December 2, 2011: Buddy Roemer, previous Democrat-turned-Republican governor of Louisiana, announces that he will seek to attain the Republican presidential nomination via the advocacy group Americans Elect. Roemer said that he was leaving the Republican Party but remains a registered Republican voter in East Baton Rouge Parish. His son, Chas Roemer, is the Republican president of the elected Louisiana Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
- 2014: Steve Scalise, a Republican from Louisiana’s 1st congressional district in suburban New Orleans, is named House Majority Whip and becomes a close ally of Speaker John Boehner.
- 2014: Bill Cassidy of Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, unseats Mary Landrieu for the U.S. Senate. Two new Republican U.S. representatives elected are Ralph Abraham of the 5th district and Garret Graves to succeed Cassidy in the 6th district.
Current Elected Officials
The Republican Party of Louisiana controls six of seven of the statewide constitutional offices and holds a majority in the Louisiana House of Representatives and in the Louisiana Senate. The party also holds both of the state’s U.S. Senate seats and six of the seven U.S. House seats. The party membership is overwhelmingly white European American in ethnicity.
Members of Congress
U.S. House of Representatives
Out of the 6 seats Louisiana is apportioned in the U.S. House of Representatives, 5 are held by Republicans:
- LA-01: Steve Scalise (House Minority Whip)
- LA-03: Clay Higgins
- La-04: Mike Johnson
- LA-05: Ralph Abraham
- LA-06: Garret Graves
Republicans control six of the seven elected statewide offices:
- Lieutenant Governor: Billy Nungesser
- Attorney General: Jeff Landry
- Secretary of State: Kyle Ardoin
- Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry: Mike Strain
- Commissioner of Insurance:
- State Treasurer: John Schroder
State legislative leaders
- President of the Senate:
- Speaker of the House: Taylor Barras
List of State Republican Chairmen
- John E. Jackson (1929–1934)
- LeRoy Smallenberger (1960–1964)
- James H. Boyce (1972–1976)
- John H. Cade, Jr. (1976–1978)
- George Despot (1978–1985)
- Donald G. Bollinger (1986–1988)
- William “Billy” Nungesser (1988–1992)
- Mike Francis (1994–2000)
- Chuck McMains (2000)
- Pat Brister (2000–2004)
- Louis Gurvich (2018- )
- Rebecca J. Scott, Degrees of Freedom: Louisiana and Cuba after Slavery (Cambridge, 2005), 39.
- W. E. B. Du Bois, Black Reconstruction, 1935
- See also Francis Grevemberg’s 1960 Louisiana Republican gubernatorial campaign.
- Jacobs, David (2014-04-14). “The state of the GOP: A heated Senate race illustrates the divides in Louisiana’s Republican Party”. Greater Baton Rouge Business Report. 32 (16). Baton Rouge. pp. 27–35. Archived from the original on 2014-04-19. Retrieved 2014-04-16. Cite uses deprecated parameter
- Louisiana Election Code (Title 18 of the Louisiana Revised Statutes).
- A position occupied by Joseph Cao, for example, in Orleans Parish prior to his being elected to represent Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district.