February 9, 2024 7:00am

Keep open primaries, LNG exports, Power Poll members say

Also: What's the best parade?

Photo of Drew Broach
New Orleans, LA Correspondent
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Don’t mess with Louisiana’s open primary elections!

That’s the message from almost two thirds of Power Poll New Orleans members, after the Legislature decided to change some elections to closed party primaries, meaning Democrats pick a Democratic candidate and Republicans pick a Republican, then those two and minor party candidates run against one another. Since the 1970s, Louisiana has used an open primary system, with all candidates regardless of party affiliation in a single race.

“While no electoral system is perfect, Louisiana's open primary system has worked well for our state,” said Ron Faucheux, president of Clarus Research Group. “It has streamlined elections and, most importantly, it puts voters above political parties. That’s why other states are moving towards it.”

Otto Briede, sales and marketing director at New Orleans Catholic Cemeteries, agreed: “Elections should pit everyone against one another and have a runoff between the top two if no one gets over 50% of the vote.”

The open primary resulted from Edwin Edwards’ first election as governor, in 1972. He had to win three elections in barely three months to take office: the crowded Democratic primary, the Democratic runoff against J. Bennett Johnston and the general election against Republican Dave Treen.

That was too expensive and too exhausting for Edwards. He led the charge to a single, non-partisan primary for all candidates followed by a runoff between the top two vote-getters if neither won a majority. Louisiana has used this system for all elections except presidential primaries since 1978.

But on his first day as governor this year, Republican Jeff Landry, asked the Legislature to return to closed primaries. GOP-affiliated power brokers view closed primaries as a way to continue strengthening the party’s clout in elections.

The Legislature found a middle ground. It preserved open primaries in statewide, legislative and some judicial races, and let unaffiliated voters continue to vote in the primaries of their choice.

Some see the result as a way to preserve the re-election chances for U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican who is on the outs with the pro-Donald Trump wing of the GOP, a faction that includes Landry. In a closed party primary, Cassidy's odds of winning are considered longer than in an open primary where non-Republicans could vote for him.

LNG exports

Another divisive issue has been the Biden administration’s temporary halt on approvals for new liquified natural gas exports — a booming industry in Louisiana but also a potential threat to ecosystems and communities near the export terminals.

More than half of Power Poll members panned the Biden administration’s move.

“Businesses must have certainty and predictability from the agencies that regulate them,” said Entergy Louisiana CEO Phillip May. “The pause in LNG export approval sends the wrong signal in so many ways — to investors, to our trading partners, etc. Seems short-sighted.”

Yet Jack Sweeney, a Democratic organizer, said LNG is a bad bet for the environment as well as Louisiana consumers. “LNG exports make a few oil and gas companies rich at the expense of everyday people and the environment. Exports drive the price of natural gas up here at home, which has major knock-on inflationary effects by sending people’s power bills through the roof.”

Out in the streets

With five dozen or more Mardi Gras season parades rolling in the New Orleans area this year, it’s awfully hard to pick a favorite. In fact, when Power Poll asked members this week to name the best of 14 options, the most votes went to “other.”

Muses, Endymion and Zulu followed.

“Endymion is a great reflection of all the bling and energy of Mardi Gras and rides through the neighborhood,” said Lisa Gunter Barback, executive director of the Westbank Business & Industry Association. “However, the beauty of true Fat Tuesday history is only found in the old traditional krewes holding onto the classic formal ball and ride; all hail REX!”

Rex drew supportive comments from a couple of other Power Poll members, as did Hermes.

Shane Hodgson, service desk manager at BridgeNet Technology Consultants, liked the trifecta two days before Mardi Gras, as well as the Lundi Gras processions.

“Can't beat Sunday before Mardi Gras with Thoth, Mid-City and Bacchus,” he said. “But Orpheus and Proteus [on] Monday have the most beautiful floats.”

As for bead begging, about half of Power Poll members expect to see just one to five parades this year.

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About Power Poll: Power Poll asks questions of the most powerful, influential people in U.S. cities. It is not a scientific survey. But because the people responding to the surveys comprise the leadership structure of their cities, the results afford a fascinating glimpse into the thoughts, opinions, and beliefs of those in a position to make change. Power Poll is distinctly nonpartisan.

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