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David Duke, rear, salutes a burning cross at a Klan rally in Euless, Texas in 1979, the year he said he left the KKK. Duke, a Republican, won a house seat in Louisiana by 227 votes, ran for governor and threw the state party into disarray over whether to support him or not. Photo by APF Fellow Vince Heptig.

How David Duke and the Born-Agains Wrecked Louisiana’s GOP

Louisiana has a spectacular history of corruption, most of it by Democrats. Disgust with that legacy animated Republican leaders, who took party organization as seriously as their rock ribbed conservatism. They had to. Outnumbered 3-to-1 by Democrats, Republicans held few offices until the 1980s, when a succession of Louisiana legislators began switching parties. By 1988 there were 24 Republicans out of 144 in the two chambers. Three of Louisiana’s six Congressmen were Republican, and Secretary of State Fox McKeithen soon shocked his daddy, former governor John McKeithen, by leaving the Democratic told. In the last four years, seventy lower-level Democratic officials also have become “switchers.” Republican control of the White House was a boon in attracting Southerners at odds with national Democratic policies. David Duke, wearing Klan robes, attends a Klan rally in Euless, Texas in June, 1979. Dukes influence has been corrosive for the Republican Party in Louisiana. (Photo by APF Fellow Vince Heptig.) It took more than a generation, from mists of the Eisenhower era, to build Louisiana’s Republican Party and just four

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