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Legislator Says He Will Challenge Seating of Duke

February 21, 1989|From Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. — A freshman legislator said Monday he will challenge the seating of former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke when the Legislature convenes in a special session this week.

In Metairie, the nearly all-white suburb of New Orleans where Duke was elected, David Sherman, a lawyer who convened a private meeting Monday night, said that a group of citizens would sue, questioning Duke's residency, if the legislator's challenge failed.

Duke, 38, defeated home builder and fellow Republican John Treen, 63, in Saturday's election for a seat in the Louisiana House, despite endorsements for Treen from President Bush, former President Ronald Reagan and powerful political figures in suburban New Orleans.

Workers at Duke's headquarters said he could not be reached for comment on the challenge.

Rep. Odon Bacque, the only registered independent in the House, said he will challenge Duke's seating on grounds that Duke did not live in the district for a year, as required by law.

Opponents said that utility records showed Duke's condominium had no electricity for the first six months he said he lived there. They noted that papers he filed during his 1988 presidential campaign listed a different address, outside the district.

Duke has said he did indeed live in the district and on Sunday dismissed further questions as frivolous.

Opponents were unable to get Duke's name off the ballot before the election because state law limits such challenges to 10 days after a candidate signs up to run. Duke is scheduled to be sworn in Wednesday.

Bacque said several legislators have tried to persuade him to change his mind because the publicity would hurt the state. "Some things are right and some things are wrong," he said. "I have no problem with him being elected if he did it the right way."

Meanwhile, Gov. Buddy Roemer, in his first public statement on the election, said it reflected the will of the voters in the district.

"In a democracy, that fact must be respected regardless of what one might think personally about David Duke's philosophical principles," he said.

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