Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – Senate District 24

Incumbent - Elbert Guillory (D – Term Limited in 2019)

District Map

Senate District 24

 

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 19770 (38%) 21570 (38%)
Barack Obama (D) 31713 (61%) 34094 (61%)
Others 612 (1%) 670 (1%)

 

2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 33594 (67%) 36280 (67%)
John Kennedy (R) 15632 (31%) 16896 (31%)
Others 764 (2%) 832 (2%)

 

2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 12664 (40%) 13605 (40%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 17091 (53%) 18278 (53%)
Others 2258 (7%) 2405 (7%)

 

2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 12638 (40%) 13544 (40%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 19229 (60%) 20537 (60%)

Current District

Though 1995 was the first year that Republicans made significant legislative gains, the genesis of this growth was actually in 1991. That was the year that the U.S Justice Department exerted pressure during reapportionment to create new black majority districts in the Louisiana Legislature (thus making the remaining districts more favorable to Republican candidates). One of those “new” districts was Senate District 24.

Senate District 24 centered in Acadiana, and is a collection of black majority neighborhoods along I-49 between Opelousas and Lafayette. It contains most of St. Landry Parish, except for the western and eastern fringes represented by Democrat Eric Lafleur. It also includes most of the black neighborhoods in the northeast section of Lafayette Parish near the intersection of I-49 and I-10. It has a narrow (56%, up from 53% in 2003) black voter registration majority, with black majorities in both parishes. The presence of a black majority ensures Democratic victories here, but you have a sizable white minority that creates a noticeable base of GOP support in the 30-40% range in seriously contested elections.

Since the reconfiguration of this district in 1991 to be a black majority district, three black Democrats have represented the district, with the first two coming from the same family. Don Cravins Sr was first elected in the 1991 runoff – this was the same runoff that had the Edwards/Duke race at the top of the ballot to energize black turnout. While Senator Cravins Sr was comfortably re-elected, he was clearly searching for other challenges after several terms: though he unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2004, he was elected Mayor of Opelousas in 2006.

When Don Cravins Sr resigned his state senate seat in 2006, his son was elected without any opposition that year and was re-elected with an impressive 74% of the vote in 2007. However, he had similar political ambitions as his father did: he unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 2008, and shortly thereafter, he resigned his seat to become staff director for a Senate committee chaired by Senator Mary Landrieu.

The Cravins resignation created an open seat in 2009, and the Cravinses attempted to hold onto the seat by running Pat Cravins, who was the wife of Don Sr. She was opposed by four other candidates, including then state representative Elbert Guillory. She trailed Guillory 28-41% in the primary, and Guillory soundly defeated her 62-38% in the runoff. What was interesting about this race was that a more conservative black candidate performed strongly in the black community: Guillory tied Cravins 41-41% in the black precincts in the primary, and again tied her 50-50% in the runoff. His margin of victory was his strong support in the white areas: he defeated Cravins 35-16% in the primary (the lone Republican in the race, Link Savoie, received 43%), while overwhelming her 75-25% in the runoff. Senator Guillory is allowed to serve two more terms.

Proposed District

Redistricting in Acadiana was relatively a painless process – there was strong population growth around Lafayette, and there were no obvious places to add a new black majority senate district. However, District 24 was 7% under populated, and had to add territory. A black majority section near Breaux Bridge in St Martin Parish was added to the district, as were precincts in northwest Lafayette Parish. In St Landry Parish, Port Barre and the northeastern corner of the district near Melville and Palmetto were added to the district. Removed from the district were some precincts around Washington and Eunice. Overall, the changes reduced the black voting majority from 56 to 54%, and created a potentially competitive district geographically: St Landry’s influence decreased from 56 to 48%, and the precincts added from St Martin Parish are another 4% of the district (the remaining 48% are in Lafayette). While these changes could make re-election a little more of a challenge (Guillory only received 39% of the vote in the Lafayette Parish precincts), as long as Senator Guillory can maintain his biracial coalition that elected him in 2003, he should be re-elected fairly easily.