Anyone attempting to analyze the politics of East Baton Rouge Parish needs to understand that it is a politically competitive parish that has a “gumbo” of citizens from within and without Louisiana, and even from foreign countries. By understanding these different regions, the Presidential vote in the parish for 2004, 2008, and 2012 makes more sense.
East Baton Rouge Parish – the regions
Baker (BAK) – This is a blue collar suburb north of the Baton Rouge airport. The political complexion here was once blue collar white and populist, but has seen substantial racial change over the past couple of decades;
Central (CEN) – This is a region between the Amite and Comite Rivers where anti-tax and Christian conservative sentiment is very strong. Some of the precincts here routinely give over 90% of the vote to the Republican Presidential nominee;
Choctaw (CHOC) – This is a generic term used to describe blue collar middle class precincts roughly between Florida Blvd and Greenwell Springs Road containing neighborhoods like Monticello, Park Forest, Bellaire, Red Oak, and Villa Del Rey. And just like Baker, this area has seen rapid racial change in recent years, and even has a “Little Vietnam” section within its boundaries;
Garden District (GDN) – Similarly, a generic term that really refers to neighborhoods between Park Boulevard and College Drive; more specifically, we’re referring to Lakeshore Drive, parts of Southdowns, Webb Park, Capital Heights, and Hundred Oaks, the Garden District subdivision, Spanish Town, and areas to the immediate south of LSU where many students live. What ties these neighborhoods together, in addition to geography, is its more politically liberal attitudes, especially on social/moral issues;
Highland/Perkins (HPERK) – A generic term used to describe neighborhoods in south Baton Rouge along Highland, Perkins, Nicholson, and Brightside. While this area is racially mixed (interestingly, its black neighborhoods are of all economic strata), the overall level of affluence here (especially along Highland Road) is fairly high. The affluence of many of its residents tends to make this a Republican leaning area, but the presence of black neighborhoods, as well as a critical mass of LSU faculty and state workers, tends to temper the region’s conservatism, especially if the candidate is perceived to be too assertive with his/her conservative beliefs. It’s more accurate to say this is more of a swing area;
Inner City (INNER) – This refers to the black majority precincts between LSU and Southern generally inside of Airline Highway, although it include Scotlandville, Glen Oaks, and the Alsen communities north of town. This is the heart of the Democratic base in the parish, since there is a near unanimous black percentage here;
Southeast BR (SE) – These are generally middle to upper middle income neighborhoods east of College Drive and south of Florida Boulevard. These neighborhoods (such as Bocage, Tara, Broadmoor, Sherwood Forest, Shenandoah, and Hickory Ridge) are the Republican base of East Baton Rouge Parish, although demographic changes has slightly moderated the politics of the area somewhat;
Zachary (ZACH) – This was once a blue collar suburb of Baton Rouge that became attractive to parents of both races once it got its own school district a decade ago. It is now a mixture of blue collar, upper income, and black neighborhoods, with Republican leanings, but the high black percentage here moderates the politics somewhat.
In the next installment, we will discuss how changes in each of these regions has impacted the politics of the parish.