Asked at this week’s Baton Rouge Press Club meeting how the party could change its standing with voters, he joked, “Change the name.”
He said that since his release from prison he has met with party bigwigs and told them the party needs to move toward the center and convince people it is not a congregation of government socialists intent on giving away everything.
“It’s a party that promotes health care and education,” he said.
Referring to longtime Democrats in the Legislature who have joined the GOP, he said they changed their party designations but “they didn’t change their attitudes.”
While the parties are at extremes nationally, in Louisiana “both groups are pretty much in the middle,” he said.
Edwards noted he convinced the Legislature in 1976 to switch to an open primary system which allowed all candidates to be on the ballot at the same time, instead of each party staging closed primaries.
Since there were few Republicans registered at the time, Democrats always won the general elections.
The primary change encouraged Republican registration, which in turn produced more candidates and GOP office holders.