INCUMBENT: Gerald Long (Republican)
DESCRIPTION: Senate District 31 is located in central/north Louisiana and contains all of Red River and Sabine Parishes, as well as parts of Natchitoches, Winn, Grant, and most of Rapides Parish south of the Red River. This is a district that appears to be a rural district, but with the addition of Rapides Parish after the 2011 reapportionment, this parish alone contains 38% of the district’s voters and adds a suburban demographic to the district’s politics.
RED/BLUE RATING (using 2008, 2012, and 2014 elections): 69% Republican
JMCEL’s SUMMARY: Senate District 31 is a district that is a mixture of suburban neighborhoods of Alexandria, rural areas, and most of the college town of Natchitoches. Despite the varied demographic mixture, the district has become a solidly Republican constituency, with both Bill Cassidy and Mitt Romney getting 72% of the district’s votes.
This was a district that, like Louisiana, supported Republicans in statewide races but always voted Democratic in legislative races. Furthermore, the pre 2011 incarnation of the district was more rural and had a slightly higher black voter registration. But when the seat opened up in 2007 due to its incumbent (Democrat Mike Smith) being term limited, this was one of several state senate races in north Louisiana where the Democrats had a formidable candidate (in this case, attorney and state representative Taylor Townsend) in the race, but the Republicans chose wisely as well with insurance agent and Baptist preacher Gerald Long. However, in 2007, with “Bobby” Jindal at the top of the ballot and Republican candidates’ being more acceptable to rural voters in legislative races, Long was elected with 54%. Redistricting was thought to hurt his re-election chances because he was given a large chunk of suburban neighborhoods and rural areas in southern Rapides Parish that he had never before represented, but he was re-elected without any opposition that year. Senator Long is allowed to serve one more term, and while he is likely a safe bet for re-election, the fact that Rapides Parish casts 38% of the district’s vote creates the potential for opposition from a Rapides based candidate.