Did GOP’s Steve Scalise vote for KKK’s David Duke in 1991?

In 1991, Republican Louisiana state senator, and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke shocked the political world by placing second in the jungle primary for the state’s governorship. He would go on to get demolished in the runoff election against Democrat Edwin Edwards, despite winning 60 percent of the white vote.

In 1991, Steve Scalise was a little-known recent college grad who was working his way through the Louisiana Republican establishment on his way to becoming a state senator in 1995. By 2002, Scalise was, we now know, speaking at a white supremacist conference hosted by none other than former KKK-man, David Duke himself.

David Duke (credit: Emmanuel d'Aubignosc)

David Duke (credit: Emmanuel d’Aubignosc)

Given the revelation that Scalise, now the Republican Majority Whip in the United States House of Representatives, launched his career by winking and nodding at Duke’s coalition of pearly-white voters — telling Louisiana journalist Stephanie Grace that he was “like David Duke without the baggage” — it’s a fair question to ask:

Did Steve Scalise vote for David Duke in the jungle primary and/or the runoff election for Louisiana Governor in 1991?

As far as I know, no one has asked him yet.

As Alison Lundergan Grimes learned the hard way in 2014, politicians’ voting history is fair game for questioning, especially when a career partisan is trying to distance themselves from an unpopular candidate of the same party. Public disavowals are fine, but when the cameras are off and it’s time to cast a ballot, where did your loyalties really lie? Grimes’ dodginess in her answer served as an indication to Kentucky voters that while she claimed to be a conservative Democrat, she was probably more liberal than she was letting on and, worse still, she was willing to hide that in order to get elected.

The ballot box is even more relevant for Scalise than it was for Grimes, given Scalise’s open-armed endorsement of David Duke’s 1991 campaign platform, if not his prejudice. Especially given that Scalise may not have even spoken at the white supremacist conference, even though he admitted to attending in 2002, I’d be willing to lighten up a bit if he were to come out and say that not only does he not hold David Duke’s prejudices, but that he actively rejected them at the ballot box.

Scalise’s vote is the simplest measuring stick we have as to whether it’s fair to associate Scalise with Duke and his “baggage.”

However, if Scalise is as dodgy on his answer as Grimes was, which is likely, given the fact that he’s totally fine with David Duke’s policies, it would be an indication that his recent attempts to put space between himself and Duke are nothing more than damage control.

In any case, it’s time for reporters to get Steve Scalise on the record about his votes in 1991. It’s a simple question and a simple answer.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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