First Post-Hurricane Statewide Louisiana Election Bodes Ill for Democrats

(cross-posted from Daily Kos with editing)

On Saturday, September 30, 2006. Louisiana held its first statewide election since Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. While the election mechanics were nearly flawless, long-term prospects for Louisiana Democrats look unfortunately dim.

Louisiana had lagged behind the Republican realignment in the South, thanks to the largest Catholic population in the region and a reliable Democratic base in New Orleans. Unfortunately, the supply of Democrats to run for statewide offices and Congress is drying up as more Republicans win elections to local offices and the legislature. Hurricane Katrina's displacement of thousands of black voters from New Orleans has aggravated the process.

The offices of insurance commissioner and secretary of state became vacant over the past year, and Saturday's election was to fill those vacancies until regular statewide elections in October 2007. The insurance commissioner's race featured two Republicans and a Libertarian. For secretary of state, the contenders included four Republicans, one Libertarian, one non-partisan candidate and the lone Democrat, State Sen. Francis Heitmeier. The runoff will be between Heitmeier and Republican State Sen. Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge. (In case you're wondering why Democrats and Republicans are on the same ballot, the open primary system was pushed through over thirty years ago by now-incarcerated former Gov. Edwin Edwards, who got tired of having to go through a primary, runoff, and general to get elected.) Interim insurance commissioner Jim Donelon of Jefferson Parish narrowly won election to complete the current term.

Here's how Times-Picayune political reporter Ed Anderson called the situation Monday.

Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat noted that two-thirds of the votes cast in Saturday's race went to Republicans, indicating that Heitmeier has "a huge hill to climb." Heitmeier did particularly poorly with white voters, Pinsonat said.

Heitmeier's performance in the runoff will be closely watched as a sign of voting trends in post-hurricane Louisiana. Even before the storms, Republicans were steadily gaining ground on the Democrats and were running strong with independents. Katrina displaced many voters from Orleans Parish, which has been a stronghold for Democratic candidates in past statewide races.

Heitmeier was also hurt by his opposition to consolidation of the patronage-riddled New Orleans area levee boards. The enabling constitutional amendments, placed on this ballot by the legislature, passed with 80% in favor.

The two most prominent Democrats in Louisiana are Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Sen. Mary Landrieu. Due to her perceived lackluster performance during and since the hurricanes, Blanco currently ranks 44th among governors with a -16% approval  rating, according to SurveyUSA. As for Landrieu, you only need look at these sobering results from her 2002 re-election bid against Suzanne Haik Terrell:

                                  New Orleans               Rest of LA
Landrieu                        105,780                      532,874
Terrell                              26,880                      569.762

As a loyal Democrat, I've had plenty of issues with Landrieu's voting record, but as she comes up for re-election in 2008, her political position is extremely precarious.

Finally, we in Louisiana finally have something in the political arena we can point to with pride - the election went off without a hitch. Why? Two words: NO DIEBOLD. Louisiana uses AVC Advantage Voting Systems. Louisiana has so thoroughly streamlined its voting systems that the second-place finisher for insurance commissioner, Republican State Sen. John David Cain, will not challenge the results despite missing a runoff by only 605 votes. As Anderson reported,

(Acting Secretary of State Al) Ater said his office and the parish clerks of court will now check the returns before making them official. The returns include totals from people who voted Saturday, voters who cast ballots during the weeklong early voting period and those who cast absentee ballots, including hurricane-displaced voters and military personnel stationed away from home.

"The likelihood of errors is very slim," Ater said, because of a new statewide electronic voting system that transmits returns from the precincts to local and state elections officials, minimizing human errors.

So Louisiana can now claim an accurate and effective voting system. Unfortunately, there's a lot fewer votes to count from Democrats.

There's more...

NV-Sen: Watch Sen. Mary Landrieu go after John Ensign

Yesterday, Senator John Ensign demonstrated once again that he's nothing more than the Bush administration's echo-chamber. Well, his rantings didn't go unanswered, as Senator Mary Landrieu of Louisiana hit right back (hat-tip to DownWithTyranny!).

You can watch the video at YouTube.

Here's the official transcript as part of the Senate record:

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Focus on the Family's New Advertisements

Focus on the Family will air advertisements in 13 states in an attempt to pressure Senators who have opposed or have expressed opposition to the federal Marriage Protection Amendment.  Here is Focus on the Family's list of advertisements and the Senators they plan to target:

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Jindal, Nagin, the Landrieus, Democrats, Democracy

The following is a summary of weeks of research on the Orleans Parish races during the past three months.  I wrote it with this audience in mind, as I know many have not paid attention to the political dynamics of these races.

Ray Nagin, who was just reelected to the position of Mayor of New Orleans with 52% of the vote in a very exciting runoff, endorsed Republican Bobby Jindal when he ran for Governor of Louisiana in 2003.  This was a controversial endorsement: not only did Nagin upset Louisiana Democrats by endorsing a conservative Republican; he also alienated what would later become his base after Hurricane Katrina, or the New Orleans African-American community.

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Katrina Federal funding: LA pols cover themselves with...

...what do you think?

An interesting blog piece by LSU polisci prof Jeffrey Sadow on the efforts of LA pols to negotiate Federal aid for Katrina reconstruction, and, in particular, the effect of new, much higher, estimates of the cost of levee work.

Feeding time in the monkey-house just about describes the picture (caveat lector, natch!).

It goes beyond that, though:

Consider that almost half of the additional cost would come from securing Plaquemines Parish from a one-in-a-hundred flood event. That would cost about $2.9 billion to protect 14,725 people - in other words, Louisiana politicians are petulantly demanding that Americans together pay almost $200,000 per person to allow those persons to live with reduced fear of flooding in a place of their own choosing. New flash: there's no law or Constitutional provision that establishes the right of people to live in Plaquemines Parish without having to pay for their own preventive flood measures because the rest of America is forced to pick up the tab. Nobody is putting a gun to their heads and forcing them to live in Plaquemines Parish without flood insurance or doing things like putting their homes on stilts or raising their foundations.

Takeaway: no one is gripping this at any level; taxpayer money will be wasted; companies will make megabucks on shoddily drawn and supervised contracts; Katrina victims will remain screwed; pols will get re-elected (most of them).

Ain't politics grand?

Update [2006-4-4 22:6:54 by skeptic06]:

I like this guy's style: this on the LA out-of-state voting farrago.

(Si non è vero, è ben trovato...)

Sadow's blog is here.

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