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Sunday, November 20, 2005

LA-02/06: Katrina Changes the Demographics

Posted by DavidNYC

Regular SSP commenter Mark asks an interesting question:

I'll start with LA-06. From what I've heard, tens of thousands of evacuees, mostly African-Americans, are now living in the Baton Rouge area. It's very likely that many will remain there next year at this time. If that's the case, will they required to vote absentee in LA-02? Or will they be allowed to vote in LA-06? If they are allowed to vote in LA-06, I think it creates a unique opportunity to unseat slimeball House member Richard Baker, who famously pontificated that Katrina was God's way of taking care of New Orleans' public housing. With tens of thousands of New Orleans public housing expatriates now living in his district, that strikes me as a rather mind-blowingly stupid thing to say. I can only hope it proves LETHALLY stupid.

On the other hand, what happens to William Jefferson in LA-02? From what I've seen of news footage, New Orleans has pretty much become an all-white town post-Katrina, save for the thousands of Hispanic workers of whom the vast majority will probably be unlikely to have voting rights next year. If New Orleans population is unable to get back at least 100,000 of its African-Americans, does Jefferson have a chance of re-election?

Jefferson won by 79-21 last time out, so I doubt he's endangered. Baker didn't fare much worse, winning by a 72-19 tally (with a second Dem candidate pulling 9%). However, district 2 (Jefferson's) is much more Democratic than district 6 is Republican. LA-02 went to Kerry by a whopping 75-24 margin. LA-06 is still a pretty strong GOP district, but it went for Bush by 59-40.

If 2006 is at all like 1994, then LA-06 would be winnable, especially given its rapid and largely unprecedented change in demographics. But I don't think 2006 will be quite as big as 1994. Nonetheless, the tide is on our side, and the new(ish) LA-06 presents an interesting opportunity for an energetic candidate to make a good showing. Right now, no one's stepped up to the plate there. I hope that changes soon.

Posted at 05:41 PM in 2006 Elections - House, Louisiana | Technorati

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Judging from the faces I see in post-Katrina New Orleans, I have to expect that the 21% of LA-02 residents who voted against William Jefferson are extremely well represented among the 80,000 or so who have returned to the district. Put that on top of Jefferson's recent scandal and I would definitely recommend the party keep an eye on this seat. The outcome of February's mayoral election should be quite telling. If Republicans field a white conservative candidate who manages to take down Ray Nagin, we probably have a serious problem on our hands.

As for LA-06, one poster to my diary made a good point. If Baker's comments about New Orleans' troubles being "God's will" become an issue in the campaign as an attempt to appeal to evacuees, it's likely that his base will shore up to show the newbies who's in control. It's unclear just how many evacuees are still in Baton Rouge, but I heard the city's population doubled after the hurricance. Assuming evacuee numbers remain anywhere near that high through next November, sheer numbers could topple Baker. It's a tall order, but one we should definitely take a long look at.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 20, 2005 08:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

We really need to get Jefferson out and put an untainted candidate in, even if we lose the advantage of incumbency.

Has anyone stepped up to challenge Jefferson so far?

Posted by: HellofaSandwich [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 20, 2005 10:44 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I agree that Jefferson needs to be out -- especially since it looks like he's going to be living in public housing of a different kind for the next 5-10 or so. From what I've heard from a friend who used to live there (and has decided not to go back post-Katrina) was that half of the Democrats in the city have been mentioned as potential challengers to Jefferson after the scandal broke and before Katrina hit (from city council members, state legislators, etc.). After Katrina, I think everyone from both parties understandably have been very cautious about how they step back into politics. I don't think Louisiana 2 is going to be as impacted by this as Louisiana 3 might be. That's the SE part of the state, that Charlie Melancon won by a tiny % with a very low voter turnout in a run-off. It still has a lot of displaced voters, and if the amount is disproportionately black by even a small percentage, that could be problematic. Although it seems like he's been credited for his staunch anti-FEMA stance in the wake of what happened to his district.

Posted by: IndianaProgressive [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2005 12:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Indiana Progressive, a source from southeast Louisiana tells me that most of the evacuees from Melancon's district are in the white Republican suburbs on the fringe of metropolitan New Orleans...places like the hard-hit St. Bernard Parish east of New Orleans. He also said that Melancon's opponent hails from the thinly-populated western side of the LA-03, and in Louisiana, the candidate's hometown accounts for alot in local elections. Furthermore, Melancon's aggressive efforts to stall CAFTA have made him a champion within the district's sugar industry, while his revelations of unflattering e-mails by FEMA Director Michael Brown have also won him favor. I'm less worried about Melancon's race than I was before speaking this person.

As for Jefferson, I've been willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the scandal (not really sure what it's about), but I think you're right that we should be shopping around for a primary challenger before long. Even if Jefferson isn't indicted or convicted, I get the feeling he's kind of a shady character after his widely-reported abuse of National Guard forces who let him "get some things out of his house" while touring the city a week after the hurricane. I think we can do better.

Posted by: Mark [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2005 03:16 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

You all forget one thing when you talk about primary challengers.

Louisiana has open primaries in November. Which means that there's one ballot with Democrats, Republicans, and maybe others on it. And if nobody gets 50%, the top two candidates go to a runoff in December.

I'm sure the "Happy Fun Ball" method of Louisiana elections was not foreign to you, but when you talk about primary challengers, it will be different in Louisiana.

As for Nagin. He won in 2002 with the establishment. He wasn't called "Ray Reagin" because of his movie career. Nagin doesn't appear to be in obvious danger.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 21, 2005 11:10 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Jefferson is extremely weak at the moment. I can't imagine a Republican pick-up here. The seat is simply too Democratic. But he's clearly open to being defeated in a primary. Whether that will happen depends on who runs against him - and right now most every ambitious Democrat in the city is listed as a possibility.

One thought though about any of you who might want to oust Jefferson because of CAFTA and the like though - trade is essential to New Orleans and it's probable that any replacement will be more "open/free trade" than your average Democrat.

Baker should be beatable. He was held to only 51% in 1998. It's just a matter of finding the right candidate. The district does lean to the Republican side, but he's not exactly beloved or deeply entrenched.

Posted by: ArmandK [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2005 10:04 AM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

It's not as tall an order as people think when it comes to beating Baker. When he first ran he only won 51-49 I believe and there are an estmated 50-100,000 new Demcorats in this district.

As far as Jefferson he is out and there is going to be a long line of people to replace him. The strongest would be Oliver Thomas -- he's awesome. The worst would be Karen Carter.

In LA-03 Charlie Melancon will never lose an election after all he and his staff did post-Katrina. The guy is a God down here no matter what party you belong to. A lot of people think it would be a problem if they redistrict since we'll most likely lose LA-03 but this actually helps us because it allows Charlie to run for Governor without breaking his election promise. In reality he's probably our only shot and beating Vitter in 2007.

I have to disagree with the assesment of Nagin. He's going to get primaried by the sitting Lt. Gov., Mitch Landrieu, who is WILDLY popular and is going to crush him and any Republican opponent. Nagin is a former Republican who's hostile to labor and other components of our base here and Democrats loathe him.

Jefferson's district USE to be heavily Democratic. Now he's probably in a swing district while the 5th is swing and the 6th and 7th are solid Dem. We just need to get these folks registered in their districts.

Posted by: alexm [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2005 01:57 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

I would imagine Blanco is going to get primary'd by some Democrat too.

Nagin v. Landrieu would probably be the first signs of a return to normalcy for the area. In other words, it'll be very bloody.

But if Landrieu runs and wins, that means that Blanco gets to appoint the Lt. Governor (I think). Considering her popularity, I would hope she could find somebody good for the position. Because that person might be targeted in 2007.

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2005 03:08 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment

Also, is Chris John going to run in LA-7?

Posted by: RBH [TypeKey Profile Page] at November 22, 2005 03:10 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment