United States Senate election in Louisiana, 1996

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United States Senate election in Louisiana, 1996
Louisiana
1990 ←
November 5, 1996 → 2002

  Mary Landrieu, official photo portrait, 2007.jpg
Nominee Mary Landrieu Woody Jenkins
Party Democratic Republican
Popular vote 852,945 847,157
Percentage 50.2% 49.8%

LASen96Counties.png

Parish Results

Senator before election

J. Bennett Johnston
Democratic

Elected Senator

Mary Landrieu
Democratic

The 1996 Louisiana United States Senate election was held on November 5, 1996 to select a new U.S. Senator from the state of Louisiana to replace retiring John Bennett Johnston, Jr. of Shreveport. After the jungle primary election, state treasurer Mary Landrieu went into a runoff election with State Representative Woody Jenkins of Baton Rouge, a former Democrat who had turned Republican two years earlier. She prevailed by 5,788 votes out of 1.7 million cast, the narrowest national result of the thirty-three races for the U.S. Senate that year and one of the closest election margins in Louisiana history. At the same time, Democrat Bill Clinton carried Louisiana by a considerable margin of 927,837 votes to 712,586 cast for Republican Bob Dole.

Jungle primary elections[edit]

The multi-candidate field for the primary included Democratic state Attorney General Richard Ieyoub and the former Ku Klux Klan leader, David Duke, running again as a Republican. Among the minor candidates was Peggy Wilson, an at-large member of the New Orleans City Council, and Troyce Guice, who had sought the same seat thirty years earlier when it was held by the veteran Senator Allen J. Ellender.

Louisiana United States Senate jungle primary election, September 21, 1996[1]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Republican Woody Jenkins 322,244 26.23
Democratic Mary Landrieu 264,268 21.51
Democratic Richard Ieyoub 250,682 20.41
Republican David Duke 141,489 11.52
Republican Jimmy Hayes 71,699 5.84
Republican Bill Linder 58,243 4.74
Republican Chuck McMains 45,164 3.68
Republican Peggy Wilson 31,877 2.6
Democratic Troyce Guice 15,277 1.24
Independent Nicholas J. Accardo 10,035 0.82
Independent Arthur D. "Jim" Nichols 7,894 0.64
Democratic Sadie Roberts-Joseph 4,660 0.38
Independent Tom Kirk 1,987 0.16
Independent Darryl Paul Ward 1,770 0.14
Independent Sam Houston Melton, Jr. 1,270 0.1
Turnout 1,228,559

Runoff election results[edit]

Louisiana United States Senate election, 1996[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Democratic Mary Landrieu 852,945 50.17 -3.78
Republican Woody Jenkins 847,157 49.83 +6.35
Majority 5,788 0.34 -10.13
Turnout 1,700,102
  Democratic hold

Recount[edit]

Jenkins refused to concede and charged massive election fraud, orchestrated by the Democratic political organization of New Orleans, provided Landrieu's narrow margin of victory. He took his case to the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate and petitioned for Landrieu's unseating pending a new election. In a hearing, carried live by C-SPAN, the Senate Rules Committee in a party-line 8-7 vote agreed to investigate the charges. The decision briefly placed Landrieu's status in the U.S. Senate under a cloud.

Only a month into the probe, however, it emerged that Thomas "Papa Bear" Miller, a detective hired by Jenkins to investigate claims of fraud, had coached witnesses to claim they had participated in election fraud. Three witnesses claimed Miller had paid them to claim that they had either cast multiple votes for Landrieu or drove vans of illegal voters across town. The others told such bizarre tales that FBI agents dismissed their claims out of hand. It also emerged that Miller had several felony convictions on his record, including a guilty plea to attempted murder. The Democrats walked out of the probe in protest, but the probe continued.[3]

The investigation dragged on for over ten months, angering the Democrats and exacerbating partisan friction in the day-to-day sessions of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee to which Landrieu was assigned as a freshman member of the 105th Congress. Finally, in October 1997, the Rules Committee concluded that while there were major electoral irregularities, none of them were serious enough to burden Louisiana with a new election at that stage. It recommended that the results stand.

The Landrieu-Jenkins contest was not the only U.S. Senate election in 20th century Louisiana in which the results were hotly disputed. Future Senator John H. Overton claimed the renomination and hence reelection of Senator Joseph E. Ransdell was tainted by fraud. In 1932, Senator Edwin S. Broussard claimed that his primary defeat by Overton was fraudulent. In both cases, the Senate seated the certified winners, Ransdell and Overton, respectively.

References[edit]

External links[edit]