Louisiana legislative special elections – GOP controls both houses

Race analysis

Tonight, a special election in Acadiana gave the GOP control of both houses of the Louisiana for the first time since Reconstruction. State Representative Jonathan Perry (R-Kaplan) was victorious over Democrat and police juror Nathan Granger by a 52-48% margin, despite Granger’s having a significant financial advantage. This victory was especially impressive, considering that Granger dominated the early vote with 55%. So what were the components of Perry’s victory in a district that once gave Bobby Jindal 38% of the vote in his first run for Governor?

(1)   Though Granger led 54.5-45.5% among the 10% who early voted, those who voted today voted 52.5-47.5% for Perry. This 7 point swing towards Perry was the result of an energetic ground game by both Republican and conservative activists, with an additional assist from various TEA Party chapters. It also didn’t help Granger that there were last minute revelations that an Obama organizer was on the payroll of the Granger campaign – in a district that gave both Obama and Charlie Melancon 27% of the vote;

(2)   While Granger carried three of the four parishes in the district 51-49%, the overall turnout in those parishes (Acadia, Lafayette, and St Landry) was 16%, while Vermilion’s 36% turnout, combined with a 52% Perry vote there,  was Perry’s margin of victory (district-wide turnout was 25%);

(3)   More specifically, Rep. Perry’s carrying Vermilion was due to his hometown strength. In the precincts he represented in the state house, he received 65% of the vote – even running ahead of Senator Vitter’s 64% showing last year. In the Vermilion precincts outside of Perry’s house district, Perry only received 40% of the vote, despite the fact that Vitter carried those precincts with 72%. In other words, Rep. Perry ran 32 points behind David Vitter in north and east Vermilion;

(4)   The black vote was miniscule here – 17% of registered voters. While the black precincts broke for Granger 91-9% (the white precincts voted 57-43% for Perry), the turnout in the black precincts was 22% – not far behind the white turnout of 25%. This insignificant turnout differential suggests that the Obama organizer on Granger’s campaign staff obviously did his job in the strongest Democratic precincts;

Bottom line

The partisan composition of the Louisiana Senate is now 20-19 Republican, while the House currently has 52 Republicans, 47 Democrats, 4 Independents, and 2 vacancies (the Mills and Perry House seats). It is under this partisan context that the legislature will be reapportioning itself next month in preparation for the Fall 2011 elections.