AP NEWS
Related topics

Split Personality Revealed in Long-Dominated District With AM-Lousiana Primary, Bjt

September 28, 1986

NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ The split personality of Louisiana politics shows in the runoff for the 8th Congressional District, pitting a black woman Democrat against a white Republican foe of busing to desegregate schools.

The race to replace the late Rep. Gillis Long, one of five contested House elections in Louisiana, illustrated the state’s competing interests that Long expertly juggled.

Democrat Faye Williams, a lawyer who left a congressional staff job in Washington to make the race, led in Saturday’s elections with 25 percent of the vote in complete but unofficial returns.

The sole Republican in the open primary, Forest Hill nurseryman Clyde Holloway, followed with 23 percent. Three other candidates divided up the remaining votes.

A victory in the Nov. 4 runoff, required since neither Williams nor Holloway won a majority, would make Williams the first black woman to win a congressional seat in the state’s history.

Holloway gained national attention in 1980, when he and parents set up a ″squatters’ school″ in a predominantly white elementary school after it was closed by a federal judge’s busing order. Ousted from the school by the government, Holloway and others set up a protest school that still thrives.

Holloway says race is no issue, not with blacks and whites alike suffering from a depression in the state’s oil and farm industries. His big issue is the need to balance the federal budget.

″People want a fresh face,″ he said during the campaign. ″Someone who doesn’t feed them the malarkey they hear from the slick politicians.″

The question of race also is downplayed by Williams, who called Holloway ″one of the more positive people in the race.″

″I’ve tried not to make race an issue,″ she said. ″I don’t think it’s entered the campaign at all.″

Williams could not be reached by telephone at her home for comment Sunday. Holloway had said he not be home and unavailable for comment until Monday.

The grotesquely gerrymandered 8th District, twisting almost 150 miles from coastal Lake Pontchartrain to the piney hills around Alexandria, was tailor- fitted to suit Long, who died last year.

His widow, Cathy Long, was named to fill his unexpired term, but when she decided to retire, the candidates found out just how artfully the district had been drawn and redrawn over the years.

All were well-known in their own areas, but found that spreading their messages to all corners of the district required advertising in New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Alexandria.

″Gillis did a good job of making it expensive for anyone to run against him,″ Holloway said.

Gillis Long was a cousin of former governor and senator Huey Long, who was assassinated.

People in the 8th District had gotten used to voting for Longs. The seat was held by Huey Long’s brother George from 1952 until his death in 1957.

Another brother, Earl, recaptured the seat for the family in 1960, but died before assuming office. Gillis won it back in 1962, but lost in 1964 to another cousin, Speedy Long. When Speedy retired eight years later, Gillis took it over and held it until his death.

Winning easy re-election in other House races were Rep. Lindy Boggs, a Democrat from the New Orleans-based 2nd District, and Rep. Jerry Huckaby, a Democrat from the 5th District in northeast Louisiana.

The 6th District was won by Republican Richard Baker, who got 51 percent of the vote over Democrat Tommy Hudson, a fellow state legislator from Baton Rouge.

A runoff was forced in the crowded race for the 7th District seat between Democrats Margaret Lowenthal and Jimmy Hayes.