Louisiana Gov. Candidate and incumbent Congressman Ralph Abraham has failed to disavow support from local leaders with troubling patterns of racism, suggesting the lawmaker believes that stoking the flames of racism will benefit his politics during the final stretch of the campaign.
As recently as last week, Abraham touted support from Sabine Parish District Attorney Don Burkett, who is alleged to have intentionally dismissed African American jurors in a trial where a black man was accused of murder. According to reporting by the Sabine Index, in a January 2019 trial the defendant’s legal team alleged that Burkett stacked the deck against the defendant: only objecting to 4.35% of white jurors while striking 50% of black jurors.
Last year, Burkett was a leading voice in opposition to abolishing a Jim Crow era split-jury rule in Louisiana, which allows a jury to convict defendants on felony charges with only 10 of the 12 jurors in agreement– rather than reaching unanimous consensus. If the amount of African American jurors allowed on a trial are limited — like what Burkett has allegedly done — the law increases the likelihood that racial bias could help implicate innocent black Louisianians for crimes they may not have committed.
In a tweet on October 2, 2019, Abraham publicly flaunted his endorsement from Burkett, stating, “Thank you for your support and endorsement, @burkett_don…I will always put the safety of our families first.”
Abraham’s recent courting of support from Burkett is not the only time during the campaign the Republican lawmaker has touted a controversial endorsement. In April 2019, the American Ledger reported that Abraham refused to disavow support from Rapides Parish Police Juror Jamie Floyd, who distributed campaign signs that pictured a monkey and read “A few of my ancestors may have swung by their necks but none swung by their tails.”
On Saturday, Abraham is vying to challenge incumbent Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards in an open primary, where Edwards will need a 50% victory to win outright against his Republican counterparts.