GOP & DEM Party Chairs Face Backlash, Calls for Resignations
Louisiana has a long history of political division between the Republican and Democratic parties, with members within each party frequently clashing over the direction of their respective ideologies. However, this year’s governor’s race has taken a unique turn as the leaders of both parties, GOP chair Louis Gurvich and Democratic chair Katie Bernhardt, are under attack for their actions and facing calls for resignation. The role of a party’s leadership is typically to recruit candidates, raise money, and register voters, not to make political endorsements or play kingmaker.
Gurvich is facing criticism for his involvement in the Republican Party’s endorsement of Attorney General Jeff Landry, which took place over a year before the election day. Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, a Republican who has publicly disagreed with Landry, went on a talk radio show and referred to Gurvich as “a disgrace to the Republican party and to Louisiana”.
Meanwhile, Bernhardt is being heavily criticized for appearing in a TV ad that appears to test the waters for her potential run for governor, while other prominent Democrats are still considering the race. This move has led to the resignation of the party’s first vice chair and state representative, Travis Johnson, who stated that the leader of the party “must be 100% dedicated to the growth of the party without ulterior motives”. Despite the criticism, both Gurvich and Bernhardt remain defiant. Gurvich dismissed the turmoil as being caused by “a few would-be candidates and a half-dozen people in Baton Rouge” and stated that the party “is intact and functioning quite well”. Bernhardt, on the other hand, claimed that the party “is stronger than it has been in years and is building momentum like never before”.
This is not the first time that state party chairs have faced calls for resignation in Louisiana. In 1996, then-Gov. Mike Foster attempted to remove then-GOP chair Mike Francis, but Francis held onto his position by winning a vote against Foster’s preferred replacement.
Gurvich, who owns a security company in New Orleans, was elected in 2018 and barely won re-election in 2022 over veteran party member Mike Bayham. Bayham has recently criticized Gurvich, stating that he “is either canceling meetings, outright lying to people or acting dumb”.
Bernhardt, a business owner in Lafayette, was elected to her position in 2020 with the promise of appealing directly to moderate voters, particularly in rural areas, in an attempt to reverse the steady decline of the Democratic Party.
The current political disputes stem from the early maneuvering for Louisiana’s next governor, with Governor John Bel Edwards in his final year before term limits. The Republican field for the open primary in October seems to be mostly set after three heavyweight politicians, Nungesser and U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy and John Kennedy, chose not to run, and three others, Treasurer John Schroder, state Senator Sharon Hewitt, and state Representative Richard Nelson, joined Landry in the race. U.S. Representative Garret Graves has publicly considered a run, but is expected to opt out. No major Democrat has officially declared their candidacy, but besides Bernhardt, transportation secretary Shawn Wilson and district attorney Hillar Moore III have expressed interest.
The front-runner for the governor’s race is currently Jeff Landry, due in part to the party endorsement and the financial support he has received from major donors to the state GOP. Gurvich and his supporters argue that the endorsement was the result of Landry’s behind-the-scenes work to secure support from over half of the party.