Last night, Louisianians chose their statewide officials, legislators, and local elected officials. What was the will of the voter ? We will answer this question by examining the results for the various offices. For each type of office, we will analyze what happened/what the voters said.
Statewide elected officials
The conventional wisdom after qualifying was that “Democrats need not apply” for elected office. This was largely true at the statewide level (we will later discuss how this was NOT the case with legislative races). Democrats essentially sat out on the statewide elections: no Democrat of any significance (i.e., an elected official or a public figure) filed for a statewide office, and in two races (Lt Governor and Secretary of State) Republicans were left to fight it out amongst themselves.
Governor Bobby Jindal was the big winner last night: he was re-elected with an astounding 66% of the vote. He carried all 64 parishes, and in 59 of those parishes, he received an absolute majority. This is a record percentage for a Republican governor – not even Mike Foster attained that percentage in his 1999 re-election. When you examine the data at a more granular level, you begin to appreciate that this was not a broad based landslide. The first noteworthy number (from an examination of selected precincts across the state) was the 19% of the black vote Jindal received. This is certainly impressive for a Republican, although it didn’t hurt that their 19% turnout was significantly less than the overall statewide turnout of 36%. The second item of interest was that, buried in the landslide, was the governor’s unenthusiastic reception from parishes with a large number of state workers (particularly prison employees). In his home parish of East Baton Rouge, for instance, his 51% of the vote was actually a decrease in support relative to his 2007 performance. Similarly, in the Felicianas, he received about 50%, while in Avoyelles, he received 43% (Vitter defeated Melancon 56-36% there last year).
The next race of interest was the Lt Governor’s race. Incumbent Republican Jay Dardenne was elected to the position in 2010 after its former incumbent was elected Mayor of New Orleans. In this race, Dardenne turned back a stiff (and well funded) challenge from fellow Republican Billy Nungesser. What was interesting about this race was that many Republican activists were vocally opposed to the incumbent, and Nungesser spent a significant amount of money getting on the election day ballots that are a commonplace on Election Day in many black neighborhoods across the state. In 2011, this action gained him little: in the parishes we examined, Dardenne received 51% of the black vote. He (Dardenne) also received a strong 64% of the vote out of the Baton Rouge area, where he has been a familiar presence for decades (he was first elected to public office in 1988; before that, he was on the Labor Day Telethon for years).
So how did Dardenne win? In addition to the 51% of the black vote he received, he had the benefit of a broad base of support (he carried 46 parishes). Nungesser did carry every parish in the New Orleans media market and just about everything along the coast between New Orleans and the Mermentau River. But that was the extent of his electoral appeal, which understandably was a natural offshoot of his television exposure after the oil spill.
Incumbent Secretary of State Tom Schedler (who assumed the office when Jay Dardenne was elected Lt Governor in 2010) was the apparent winner by a razor thin 8,500 vote margin over term limited House Speaker Jim Tucker. This was another two Republican race.
Further down the ballot, the incumbent commissioner of agriculture and insurance (who were both Republicans) were comfortably re-elected with 67% of the vote against minor opposition. The remaining incumbents (again, all Republicans) were re-elected without opposition.
In our next installment, we will discuss the BESE and legislative races. One item we plan to discuss: why was Baton Rouge contractor Lane Grigsby the biggest winner last night?