CUNNINGHAM: The State of the Louisiana GOP Under Gurvich

Over the weekend, a Republican Party election saw Louis Gurvich hold on to his seat as chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party. While Gurvich has been in charge, the party saw near-supermajority growth in the state legislature, making it difficult for Democrats to really get much of their agenda accomplished in the state.

Except, in this case, Gurvich also oversaw the collapse of the party’s chances to win back the governor’s mansion from a very weak Democratic incumbent. Based on the legislative results of the 2019 election, there should have been a Republican win in the state’s top job but, instead, John Bel Edwards held on.

Gurvich and the state party had warned Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone to stay clean and focus their fire on Edwards in the primary. Instead, Rispone dropped a ton of ads to attack Abraham. The state party’s response?

Nothing. Or, nothing with teeth, at any rate.

The results are pretty telling. The I-20 corridor, which was fiercely loyal to Abraham, opted to not vote in the gubernatorial race. Rispone lost, even while Republicans dominated legislative races.

Gurvich is making a strong move now to endorse Julia Letlow, the widow of Congressman-elect Luke Letlow. After her husband died from COVID-19 before assuming office, she decided to run for his seat. That election will be held soon, and with Gurvich and the state GOP endorsing her, it’s clear they want to try and unify the party.

Gurvich’s primary opponent over the weekend was Lance Harris, who lost a bid for the seat Letlow originally won – the seat formerly held by Abraham.

As weak as the gubernatorial debacle may have made Gurvich look, Harris’ own record as a legislator is worse. He was responsible not only for the revival of a sunsetting tax but for actually leading attempts to go out and tell conservative groups why it was a good thing and they should be grateful.

Harris was supposed to be (and portrayed himself as) a social and fiscal conservative leader in the House, but did very little to whip up support (as was his job) for socially and fiscally conservative bills in the House. He would not have been a strong conservative in the U.S. House of Representatives, more inclined to support moderate/left-leaning policies than conservative ones, and he would have been a weak and ineffective leader of the state party.

Gurvich was clearly the stronger choice, but he now has to go out and prove that he can fix what’s broken in the state’s party – weak, barely-conservative Republicans running for office and winning, and the divisive primaries we keep seeing in state office elections. Part of that fix, as referenced here, is closing the primaries rather than continue to have the jungle primaries that cause a lot of the problems we’ve seen.

I don’t know if he can, but I will choose to be cautiously optimistic. At the very least, he’ll do a much better job of it than Harris could.

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