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1940 Louisiana Democratic gubernatorial primary

← 1936 February 20, 1940 1944 →
Candidate Sam H. Jones Earl Long
Party Democratic Democratic
Alliance Anti-Long Longite
Popular vote 284,437 265,403
Percentage 51.73% 48.27%

Parish results
Jones:      50-60%      60-70%
Long:      50-60%      60-70%      80-90%

Governor before election

Earl K. Long

Elected Governor

Sam H. Jones

The 1940 Louisiana gubernatorial election was held in two rounds on January 16 and February 20, 1940. Like most Southern states between the Reconstruction Era and the Civil Rights Movement, Louisiana's Republican Party was virtually nonexistent in terms of electoral support. This meant that the two Democratic Party primaries held on these dates were the real contest over who would be governor. The election resulted in the narrow defeat of Earl K. Long and the election of Sam H. Jones as governor of Louisiana on a reform platform.



The focus of the campaign was the ongoing 'Louisiana Scandals' which implicated former governor Richard W. Leche – and by extension Earl K. Long – in widespread corruption. Jones's main campaign focus was a moralistic crusade against corruption, and the state's newspapers featured him in overwhelmingly positive coverage. Behind the scenes, though, Jones enlisted the aid of veteran politicos who were themselves implicated in questionable dealings. He refused to criticize Huey Long, saying that "I am not running against a dead man. I am running against a gang of rascals as live as any gang that ever lived, and I'm running to clean out every one of them." Jones also promised to expand some of the Long programs, including teacher salary increases and a new old-age pension.

Earl Long made use of the Louisiana Progress newspaper he had inherited from his brother, as well as state publications like the Louisiana Conservation Review. He also made extensive speaking tours throughout the state's rural areas, making colorful attacks on the big-city newspapers and calling Jones a tool of corporate interests.

Jones got most of his funding from wealthy 'good-government' supporters, while Long's funding came from state employee deductions, oil and gas companies, and contributions from organized crime.

After the first round of voting, Noe endorsed Jones after the two struck a deal in which the 'good-government' Jones promised Noe half of the state's patronage appointments in exchange for his support. Long called a special session of the legislature to pass several spending increases for social programs and some reform bills in an effort to influence runoff voters. But Long refused to include a pay raise for teachers, alienating a large voting bloc in the process.


First Democratic Party Primary, January 16

Candidate Votes received Percent
Earl K. Long 226,385 40.88%
Sam H. Jones 154,936 27.98%
James A. Noe 116,564 21.05%
James H. Morrison 48,243 8.71%
Vincent Moseley 7,595 1.37%

Second Democratic Party Primary, February 20

Candidate Votes received Percent
Sam H. Jones 284,437 51.73%
Earl K. Long 265,403 48.27%

Despite Long's promises of increased social programs, voters were still outraged over the recent corruption scandals and were unwilling to believe Earl Long's claims that he had had nothing to do with the scandals. Jones's victory ended twelve years of Longite governors in Louisiana.


Preceded by
1936 gubernatorial election
Louisiana gubernatorial elections Succeeded by
1944 gubernatorial election