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Louisiana GOP Expected to Reject Roemer

June 14, 1991|PATRICK THOMAS | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The Louisiana Republican Party is expected to defy the national party leadership Saturday by nominating U.S. Rep. Clyde C. Holloway for governor, shunning incumbent Gov. Buddy Roemer, who switched from the Democratic to Republican Party in March.

The nomination of Holloway, a little-known conservative with strong ties to the state's anti-abortion movement, will further splinter a crowded field in the fall election. Former Ku Klux Klan Grand Dragon David Duke is running as a Republican, and as many as five Democrats, including former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, have declared as well.

The Republican National Committee has already pledged strong support for Roemer's reelection, including campaign staff and visits from President Bush, Vice President Dan Quayle and various Cabinet members.

But Roemer offended the leadership of the tiny state GOP by not informing it of his decision to turn Republican until the night before his announcement. The nomination of Holloway by the state caucus in Lafayette on Saturday is considered so certain that Roemer refused to participate in the process.

The endorsement by the party is less important in Louisiana than other states because of the open primary race, in which all candidates compete regardless of party affiliation. If no candidate wins a majority, a runoff between the top two vote-getters will be held in November. Recent polls show Roemer and Edwards leading the field, each drawing 26% of potential voters. But the proliferation of candidates has added considerable uncertainty to the race.

Normally, the split between the national and state Republican parties would hand Duke an opportunity that he has successfully exploited in his two previous campaigns--running against national party big shots. In 1989, he won his state House seat even though former President Ronald Reagan campaigned for his opponent. Last year, Duke lost in his race against incumbent U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston but took an astounding 44% of the vote after eight Republican senators endorsed Democrat Johnston.

However, Holloway is expected to draw most of his support from anti-abortion forces who might otherwise support Duke. Roemer lost that constituency last year when he vetoed an anti-abortion bill that was the strictest in the country. This year, the Legislature passed a similar bill, which now awaits Roemer's signature or veto.

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