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Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1991

Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1991

November 16, 1991

Nominee Edwin Edwards David Duke
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 1,057,031 671,009
Percentage 61.2% 38.8%

Parish Results

Governor before election

Buddy Roemer

Elected Governor

Edwin Edwards

The Louisiana gubernatorial election of 1991 resulted in the election of Edwin Edwards to his fourth non-consecutive term as governor of Louisiana. The election received national and international attention due to the unexpectedly strong showing of David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, who had ties to other white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups.


  • Background 1
  • Initial Candidates Enter/Drop Out 2
  • First Primary 3
  • Runoff debate 4
  • Results 5
  • Sources 6


In 1991 all elections in Louisiana—with the exception of U.S. presidential elections—followed a variation of the open primary system called the jungle primary. Candidates of any and all parties are listed on one ballot; voters need not limit themselves to the candidates of one party. Unless one candidate takes 50% or more of the vote in the first round, a run-off election is then held between the top two candidates, who may in fact be members of the same party. In this election, the first round of voting was held on October 19, 1991, and the runoff was held on November 16.

Initial Candidates Enter/Drop Out

Public Service Commissioner Kathleen Blanco, Democrat, announced her candidacy in May of 1991. Edwards was none too impressed by her entry. It was the first time in 40 years a woman had seriously run for Governor but Edwards surmised she would not get out of single digits. Blanco who came from Acadiana could have complicated Edwards' bid for a fourth term but after 100 days she suddenly withdrew and ran for Public Service Commissioner again.[1]

Meanwhile, Governor Roemer was facing a potential opponent for the Republican support who could have denied him major party support he needed to stave off Holloway and Duke. Another prominent party-switcher, Secretary of State Fox McKeithen who withdrew from a 1990 U.S. Senate bid actively explored a Governor bid. His father, former Governor John McKeithen would prove to be a strong asset had he run, but in the end McKeithen figured that his time had come and gone and ran for reelection as Secretary of State.[2]

First Primary

After the withdrawal of Blanco & McKeithen the field of candidates began to solidify. Then late in March, incumbent Governor Buddy Roemer set off a firestorm by making a late-term party switch that dismayed as many Republican politicians and activists as it did Democrats. One irate Republican was the state party chairman, William "Billy" Nungesser of New Orleans. Failing to get the Louisiana Republicans' endorsement convention canceled, Roemer boldly announced he would skip the event. The convention, as expected, endorsed U.S. Representative Clyde C. Holloway, the favored candidate of the pro-life forces in the state, with whom Roemer was at odds at the time.[3] The 1991 initial primary gubernatorial contest included Roemer, Edwin Edwards, State Representative David Duke, and Eighth District Congressman Holloway who all ran in Louisiana's open primary. Roemer was wounded by his mistakes as governor, while Edwards and Duke each had a passionate core group of supporters. Roemer shockingly placed third in the primary. One of the contributing factors to Roemer's defeat in the 1991 primary was a last-minute advertising barrage by Marine Shale owner Jack Kent. Marine Shale had been targeted by the Roemer administration as a polluter. Kent spent $500,000 of his own money in the closing days of the campaign to purchase anti-Roemer commercials. Faced with the alternative of David Duke, many Louisianans who were otherwise critical of Edwards now looked favorably on Edwards. This included Buddy Roemer, who had run originally on an "Anyone but Edwards" platform. He ended up endorsing Edwards rather than Duke, who was the putative Republican candidate. As Roemer left the governorship he said a key factor in his defeat for a second term was his alienation of special interests.[4]

Runoff debate

The runoff debate, held on November 6, 1991, received significant attention when reporter Norman Robinson questioned Duke, a Republican State Representative and former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. Robinson, who is African-American, told Duke that he was "scared" at the prospect of Duke winning the election because of his history of "diabolical, evil, vile" racist and anti-Semitic comments, some of which he read to Duke. He then pressed Duke for an apology and when Duke protested that Robinson was not being fair to him, Robinson replied that he didn't think Duke was being honest. Jason Berry of the Los Angeles Times called it "startling TV" and the "catalyst" for the "overwhelming" turnout of black voters that helped former Governor Edwin Edwards defeat Duke.[5]


Parishes won by Gubernatorial Candidates in the October 19, 1991 Election.
  Edwin Edwards (26)
  David Duke (31)
  Buddy Roemer (7)
Parishes won by Gubernatorial Candidates in the November 16, 1991 Runoff.
  Edwin Edwards (45)
  David Duke (19)
First voting round, October 19
Candidate Party affiliation Votes received Percent
Edwin Edwards Democrat 523,096 33.76%
David Duke Republican 491,342 31.71%
Buddy Roemer Republican 410,690 26.51%
Clyde C. Holloway Republican 82,683 5.34%
Sam S. Jones Democrat 11,847 0.76%
Ed Karst None/Other 9,663 0.62%
Fred Dent Democrat 7,385 0.48%
Anne Thompson Republican 4,118 0.27%
Jim Crowley Democrat 4,000 0.26%
Albert Powell Democrat 2,053 0.13%
Ronnie Johnson None/Other 1,372 0.09%
Cousin Ken Lewis Democrat 1,006 0.06%
Runoff, November 16
Candidate Party affiliation Votes received Percent
Edwin Edwards Democrat 1,057,031 61.17%
David Duke Republican 671,009 38.83%
Preceded by
1987 gubernatorial election
Louisiana gubernatorial elections Succeeded by
1995 gubernatorial election


  1. ^
  2. ^
  3. ^
  4. ^ "Roemer: Four years have left their mark", Minden Press-Herald, January 5, 1992, p. 1
  5. ^ "Duke Gets His Comeuppance From the Victims of His Hate Message : Politics: Up until an amazing TV exchange, Louisiana's blacks had remained on the sidelines. Then they flooded the polls.". Los Angeles Times. November 24, 1991. Retrieved November 11, 2014. 
  • First gubernatorial debate
  • Second gubernatorial debate
  • Third gubernatorial debate

Louisiana Secretary of State Elections Division. Official Election Results Database

  • Statewide primary results, October 19, 1991
  • Primary results by parish: Governor, October 19, 1991
  • Statewide runoff results, November 16, 1991
  • Runoff results by parish: Governor, November 16, 1991
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