In this final installment, we would like to discuss the changes to House and Senate districts in metropolitan New Orleans. Though, as of the time of this writing, Senate and House plans are both headed to Governor Jindal, there is always the possibility that the Justice Department could still reject the lines even if signed by the governor.
State House Districts
Currently: 30 representatives (12 Democrat, 17 Republican, 1 Independent)
What made redistricting unique in this part of the state was that, with population losses due to Hurricane Katrina, six House seats were eliminated. Of this total, four came from New Orleans (2 Democrats and 2 Republicans), one seat was eliminated in St. Bernard (the term limited Republican seat held by Nita Hutter), and a the seat held by Republican John Labruzzo was eliminated from Jefferson. At the same time, several Republicans saw their districts strengthened.
First, let’s talk about the shoring up of marginal Republicans. Just like in the Florida Parishes, Republicans some time ago have nearly maximized their holdings in this region, although we will note later that there are still some opportunities for the GOP. Four GOP held seats in Metro New Orleans were trending Democratic that received some more conservative voters: (1) Rep. Pat Connick saw the Vitter percentage in his Westbank district increase from 60 to 63%, (2) Rep. Ricky Templet saw the Vitter and Dardenne percentage in his Westbank district increase from 46 to 52%, (3) Rep. Tom Wilmott saw the Vitter and Dardenne percentage in his Kenner district improve from 47 to 51%, (4) Rep. Nick Lorusso’s district in the Lakeview portion of New Orleans gained about 20K Metairie residents, which increased the Vitter percent from 50 to 64% (the Dardenne percent increased from 54 to 67%).
There were 10 legislators (6 Democrats and 4 Republicans) who saw significant impact to and/or elimination of their districts. Reps. Walt Leger and Helena Moreno represented districts that until their election were black districts. This status was seemingly restored as a result of reapportionment: black voter registration in both districts increased to over 60%. Similarly, freshman Democrat Robert Billiot saw the black voter registration percentage of his Westwego district increase from 42 to 55%. Speaker Tucker and Rep. Walker Hines saw their New Orleans districts eliminated, although it’s debatable that another Republican could have held either of those districts, given the current demographics. Two black districts in New Orleans were also eliminated: that of retiring state representative Juan Lafonta and newly elected Wesley Bishop. Over in St Bernard Parish, massive population losses, coupled with the fact that Republican Nita Hutter was term limited, resulted in her district being absorbed by freshman Democrat Reed Henderson. In its place, a new, more Republican district was created in St Tammany Parish between Covington and Slidell that voted over 70% for Vitter and Dardenne. Republican John Labruzzo saw his Metairie district eliminated, and he was placed into a district currently held by New Orleans Republican Nick Lorusso. Finally, Democrat Neil Abramson saw the black population of his district decrease from 49 to 27%.
There are three districts where a Republican has a fighting chance now: the combination of Walker Hines district into Neil Abramson has resulted in an Uptown New Orleans district for Rep. Abramson that is 27% black by voter registration. Though Jay Dardenne only received 38% of the vote in the district, “Bobby” Jindal received 48% of the vote in a multicandidate field in his 2007 race for governor. And even though the term limited House seat of Ernest Wooton was made more Democratic, it went 50/50 in the 2010 Lt Governor’s race. Finally, the absorption of Nita Hutter’s seat into the district of Reed Henderson now gives him a district that voted 52% for Vitter and 53% for Dardenne.
State Senate Districts
Currently: 11 senators (5 Democrat, 6 Republican)
With the Senate delegation, the GOP has maxed out in terms of their Senate representation in the New Orleans metropolitan area. There were two seats (the Republican seat between Hammond and Uptown New Orleans held by retiring Julie Quinn and the New Orleans East seat of freshman Democrat Cynthia Willard-Lewis) which were eliminated. The remaining Democrats (all are black except for freshman David Heitmeier) were given districts that were at least 53% black voter registration, so there is very little chance that the Republicans can pick up any senate seats in the area. The Republicans were either given similar or safer seats to run in, so it’s highly likely that we’ll have a 4 Democrat, 5 Republican senate delegation from the area after elections, particularly since none of the senators from the area were term limited.