Louisiana gubernatorial election, 1963–64
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|Elections in Louisiana|
The Louisiana gubernatorial election of 1963–64 was held in three rounds. The two Democratic Party primaries were held on December 7, 1963 and January 11, 1964. The general election was held on March 3, 1964. The 1964 election saw the election of John McKeithen as governor.
- Public Service Commissioner John McKeithen of Columbia in Caldwell Parish, who had been a floor leader for Earl Long in the Legislature in 1948. McKeithen was endorsed by Long's widow, Blanche Revere Long, who served as his campaign manager. He would later appoint her to a key department in his administration.
- deLesseps Story Morrison, Sr., who had been mayor of New Orleans from 1947 to 1961 and Ambassador to the Organization of American States from 1961 to 1963. Morrison had previously run unsuccessfully for governor in 1956 and 1960.
- Eighth District Congressman Gillis William Long of Alexandria, endorsed by Senator Russell B. Long, was vying with McKeithen for the support of the Longite faction.
- Robert F. Kennon of Minden, who had been governor from 1952 to 1956. Kennon had the support of some business and industrial interests, as well as some segregationist voters.
- Education Superintendent Shelby M. Jackson also ran as a vocal segregationist candidate.
- State Representative Louis J. Michot of Lafayette
- Public Works Director Claude Kirkpatrick of Baton Rouge, formerly of Jennings
- Wilford Thompson of Zachary
- Hugh Lasseigne, a Baton Rouge salesman
- Ku Klux Klan wizard Addison Roswell Thompson of New Orleans
- Frank Voelker, Jr., attorney and chairman of the since defunct Louisiana Sovereignty Commission of Lake Providence, later New Orleans
In the early days of the campaign, the conventional wisdom of political analysts was that the race would be a three-way one between Morrison, Kennon, and Gillis Long. As the campaign progressed, however, John McKeithen's standing in the polls rose rapidly.
Some observers theorized that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, which occurred just days before the primary election, may have had a significant impact on the results. The assassination weakened Kennon's prospects because Kennon had in a televised address been highly critical of certain policies of both President Kennedy and Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy describing the Kennedy brothers as "young, misguided men." McKeithen had also criticized the Kennedys, describing both Gillis Long and Chep Morrison as "the Washington candidates." While it did not play as prominent role as in the 1959–60 campaign, race was an important issue in the primary. Jackson was the vocal segregationist among the five candidates, and Kennon discussed "state sovereignty," which some saw as a code word for segregation.
In the runoff, McKeithen echoed the racist tactics of former governor Jimmie Davis in the 1960 campaign, charging that Morrison was supported by a NAACP bloc vote. Portraying himself as a Southerner threatened by outside interests, asking the people of the state "Won't you he'p me?" He likewise borrowed Earl Long's criticisms of Morrison as a toupee-wearing city slicker out of touch with rural voters.
First Democratic Party Primary, December 7, 1963
|Gillis William Long||137,778||15.20%|
|Robert F. Kennon||127,870||14.11%|
|Shelby M. Jackson||103,949||11.47%|
|Louis J. Michot||37,463||4.13%|
|Addison Roswell Thompson||3,343||0.37%|
Just as in his previous two gubernatorial elections, Morrison found the bulk of his support in New Orleans and South Louisiana. McKeithen's strong support in North Louisiana earned him a place in the runoff. Gillis Long did well in South Louisiana, but the presence of so many strong North Louisiana candidates denied him a significant base of support in that region.
The fifth-place candidate, Shelby Jackson, drew conservative and segregationist votes from Kennon and therefore worked to deny Kennon the a place in the runoff against Morrison. Even if half of Jackson's votes had otherwise gone to Kennon, then Kennon, and not McKeithen, would have faced the runoff with Morrison. Jackson's supporters were also believed in many cases to have been previous backers of the 1959 segregationist gubernatorial hopeful, William M. Rainach of Claiborne Parish.
Second Democratic Party Primary, January 11, 1964
McKeithen won 44 of 64 parishes, including every North Louisiana parish. Avoyelles waw the most northerly parish to support Morrison. McKeithen's geographic support was strikingly similar to Jimmie Davis' in the 1960 runoff; he won every Davis parish except one.
General Election, March 3, 1964
|Thomas S. Williams||States' Rights Party of Louisiana||6048||1.78%|
McKeithen overcame the conservative Republican Charlton Lyons, a Shreveport oilman, in the first seriously contested Louisiana gubernatorial general election since Reconstruction. McKeithen defeated Lyons, 469,589 (60.7 percent) to 297,753 (37.5 percent); another 1.8 percent went to the States Rights Party nominee. McKeithen seemed bitter that he had to face a strong Republican candidate after struggling through two hard-fought Democratic primaries.
No Republican ran for lieutenant governor against Aycock.
Significance of the election
From Reconstruction until the 1964 election, Louisiana's Republican Party had been virtually nonexistent in terms of electoral support. This meant that the two Democratic Party primaries were generally the real contest over who would be governor. In this election, however, the Republican made an unprecedented strong showing in the general election, winning 37.5% of the vote.
1959–60 gubernatorial election
|Louisiana gubernatorial elections||Succeeded by
1967 gubernatorial election
Louisiana Secretary of State. Primary Election Returns, 1960, 1964
Howard, Perry H. Political Tendencies in Louisiana. LSU Press, 1971.
Jeansonne, Glenn. "DeLesseps Morrison: Why He Couldn't Become Governor of Louisiana." Louisiana History 14, 1973.
Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana, executive director Edward J. Steimel. Voter's Guide to the 1963–1964 Elections