Republican State Central Committee meeting

More than 200 Republican activists and elected officials gathered inside a Baton Rouge church Saturday, Jan. 30, 2021, for a Republican State Central Committee meeting. Party chair Louis Gurvich fended off a challenge and won re-election as head of the party. 

Perhaps because Louisiana conducts open primaries, the Democratic and Republican party organizations don’t have much clout in our state.

Remember who was the Republican Party-endorsed candidate for mayor-president of Baton Rouge?

Didn’t think you would.

It was bar owner Jordan Piazza. The party’s parish chairman, Woody Jenkins, said he was impressed with Piazza’s “youth and vitality.”

But Republican voters preferred others, and Piazza finished a distant fourth. Steve Carter, the amiable Republican former state representative, drew twice as many votes and advanced to the runoff against incumbent Sharon Weston-Broome.

Things aren’t much different in the Democratic party.

The party’s chair at the time, Karen Carter Peterson of New Orleans, used her privileges as a state senator to reject, in secret, two of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ nominees for key state posts.

Even the Republicans treated Edwards’ appointees better.

Saturday’s meeting of the Republican State Central Committee was a shining example of party fecklessness.

Party leaders gathered indoors for five hours. Participants were told masks would be required, but nobody enforced the rules. Instead, a small section was reserved for “mask wearers only.”

Most participants were maskless as they paid tribute to Carter and Luke Letlow, the promising young congressman-elect from rural north Louisiana who, at 41, might have served his voters for decades. Both men died of coronavirus-related causes.

The party heard from Lenar Whitney, the Republican National Committee member for Louisiana, who repeated unsubstantiated claims that Donald Trump won the 2020 election.

The committee also voted 134-61 to reelect Louis Gurvich, of New Orleans, to head of the state party, turning back a challenge from state Rep. Lance Harris, of Alexandria.

But that meant 195 ballots were cast even though only 190 members were eligible to vote at the time.

The irony of decrying fraud in the 2020 presidential race and then conducting a party election with more votes than voters was apparently lost on the central committee.

Republican Party membership is growing in Louisiana, and that trend may accelerate as voters weigh the leftward tilt in the Democratic Party, especially on energy policy.

Louisiana has many able and dedicated Republican officeholders, like our senior U.S. Senator, Bill Cassidy, a gastroenterologist who treated poor patients at Earl K. Long Hospital in Baton Rouge before entering politics.

And this page has consistently supported the key ideals of Republicanism, like limited government and local control.

But Republican voters deserve better than a party that will spend 2021 denying the realities of 2020.

It has been 160 years since the nation installed its first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln.

Good thing Honest Abe wasn’t around to see Saturday’s fiasco.

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