Last night, Louisiana held its primary election for local and statewide races, as well as a Republican Congressional runoff for a House seat down in south Louisiana. Though turnout was higher than the August 28 Congressional primary (7% turnout in that race), a paltry 22% showed up to vote last night. In this article, we would like to talk about the Lt Governor’s race in this article.
Lieutenant Governor – This race will go into a runoff in November, and will share the ballot with the Senate and House races. Though Secretary of State Jay Dardenne was the front runner from start to finish, he finished last night with a not very strong 28% of the vote. He faces Democratic attorney Caroline Fayard from New Orleans, whose (with regards to elected office, anyway) newcomer status and heavy advertising enabled her to finish a close second with 24%. Country singer Sammy Kershaw finished third with 19%. The remaining contenders all finished in the single digits.
Geographically, we expected that Jay Dardenne would dominate in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans media markets. He largely did so in Baton Rouge; in New Orleans, he had competition from Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere and St Tammany Parish President Kevin Davis. Dardenne also benefited from a strong early vote showing: 11% early voted, and with this group he led Fayard 35-19% (Kershaw received 19% as well). For those who voted on election day, Dardenne’s lead over Fayard was only 27-25%, with Kershaw getting 19%.
Caroline Fayard’s strength was with the black vote, and her capturing 56% of that crucial Democratic bloc (Dardenne received 8%) put her in the runoff. However, the larger story than the relative positions of the front runners was the fact that, when given a choice, an impressive 64% of the electorate voted for a Republican candidate. This meant that 16% of black voters voted for a Republican, while in predominately white precincts, 80% voted Republican.
Though Jay Dardenne has the edge in the runoff, there are three things he has to do in the next four weeks, in increasing order of difficulty: (1) consolidate the vote Kevin Davis received in Metro New Orleans. This will be fairly easy to do, because we see the Davis vote as a vote of support for the hometown candidate, and his supporters have a high degree of comfort with a candidate like Dardenne; (2) get Villere’s endorsement and/or consolidate that support. Initially, this will be tricky, because the Villere campaign emphasized what they believed was Jay’s lack of fidelity to conservative causes. However, Villere supporters are also, by and large, party loyalists who on the same ballot will be voting for David Vitter and the Republican Congressman of their choice. Given that context, we do not believe it would be much of a stretch for them to vote for the (in their minds) “lesser of two evils;” (3) get the support of the Kershaw voters. These are small town conservatives who have never entirely warmed to Dardenne. In this case, a Kershaw endorsement (and a few joint appearances/country concerts in places like Bossier City, Iota, Farmerville, and Abbeville) certainly wouldn’t hurt, nor would it hurt if Jay did some “meet and greets” in those smaller parishes.
As Jay Dardenne assembles the pieces of the Republican coalition to secure a victory in November, it’s important for him to realize that he is no longer the fresh face on the statewide scene like he was upon his election to the Louisiana Senate in 1991. Nor should he try to compete with Fayard in that category. Instead, he has to emphasize to wavering conservatives how he has shared/fought for their values in the time he has been in state government, while questioning what Fayard would do with the office with the (so far) limited experience she has had.