Louisiana is no longer alone in having an all-comers election, commonly called the open primary. Other states, most notably California, also have some variants of our system.
But there is no question that an open primary has one fundamental rule: Nobody is running for third place.
That’s why there are, less than a month from Oct. 12, new attacks between the two major challengers to Gov. John Bel Edwards, Eddie Rispone of Baton Rouge and Congressman Ralph Abraham of north Louisiana.
It is not clear if the attack ads will change the race. Some are from the campaigns and from supposedly independent political committees, each established from the candidates’ fundraising but in theory forbidden to coordinate activities with them.
What is clear is that the chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, Louis Gurvich of New Orleans, was not successful in his earnest pleas that the Republicans not attack each other.
Will the playing field change? In Louisiana's past decades, the fear in an open primary was that Candidate A would attack Candidate B, but they would just damage each other and Candidate C might pick up the loose votes. That may not be the case today, as party affiliation is more important; Edwards may not greatly benefit from strongly Republican voters looking between two of their own, however painful it may be to GOP leaders like Gurvich.
One thing is for sure: There’s not a referee on the GOP side who can alter the fundamental dynamic of a multi-candidate open primary. Maybe there won’t be a runoff when the votes are counted but if there is, one of the GOP guys want to be in it.
Nobody runs for third place in the open primary.