SADOW: LCCM’s Endorsements Feel Like What Would Happen If Louisiana Had Closed Primaries

What do you if the political party closest to your ideology can’t control its own nominations? If you’re the Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority, you try to shape general election contests into nomination-like elections.

That’s what this political action committee did this week in announcing endorsements (some actually first named late last year) for Republican candidates. As the name implies, the group, backed by a number of influential conservatives but most notably Republicans Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry and Sen. John Kennedy, supports demonstrably conservative candidates in their election aspirations through in-kind and independent expenditures.

Louisiana’s blanket primary system – really not a primary at all but a general election that allows candidates of any or no party to run together, where if no one candidate produces an absolute majority the top two in votes received advance to a general election runoff – disallows parties any chance of selecting their own nominee for the general election. In a sense, the LCCM tries in the general election phase to ensure conservatives either win outright or advance to the runoff, even if that means defeat of other Republicans – just like in a primary election.

Its choice of legislative candidates instructs as to its priorities and preferences. It tabbed 10 Senate candidates out of 22 contests with a Republican running against at least one other candidate, two of which had all-GOP lineups. Out of the dozen races without a selection made, two involved an incumbent Republican against a minor party candidate and another four – one on the positive side for Republicans but three on the negative – won’t be competitive.

Of the six others, three involve sitting multiple House members trying to move to the Senate while another pits a sitting House member against an incumbent, so the group may not have wanted to intervene in these situations if they found all Republicans acceptable. Of the three remaining, the 31st features three non-incumbent Republicans only and the 32nd two non-incumbents from the GOP against two Democrats.

The last of the bunch is telling. In the 13th, GOP state Rep. Rogers Pope most decidedly didn’t get the group’s nod, nor did the other two Republicans in the three-person race. Pope has voted among the least conservative/reform Republicans in his House tenure.

But the most stinging rebuke came when the group rejected District 36’s GOP state Sen. Ryan Gatti in favor of Republican challenger Robert Mills – the only instance it favored somebody against a Republican incumbent. While Gatti has one of the higher Louisiana Family Forum voting scores for his term, among Republicans he has one of the lowest Louisiana Association of Business and Industry scores; in both cases, higher scores mean more conservative votes. Additionally, the group directly challenged one Democrat incumbent, by endorsing Republican Barry Milligan in District 38 against state Sen. John Milkovich.

In the House, the group endorsed a dozen GOP newcomers out of 28 competitive contests with no incumbent Republican running (and also named an additional pair who won without opposition). In those 12, four feature all Republicans and in one, the 75th, Republican Phillipp Bedwell received the group’s blessing against Democrat state Rep. Malinda White.

Notable GOP candidates left out include state Sen. Neil Riser trying to switch to the House in the 20th; former Gov. Bobby Jindal Administration member Michael DiResto or Baton Rouge Metro Council member Barbara Freiberg in the 70th, and Board of Elementary and Secondary Education member Kathy Edmonston in the 88th.

In a closed primary, a Republican candidate like Gatti never would make it to the general election as a more conservative one would defeat him. By making endorsements and helping out endorsees, the LCCM hopes to simulate closed primaries that makes it more likely to put conservatives into office.

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