In St Martin Parish, the vacated House seat of party switcher Fred Mills was won by St Martin councilman Mike Huval, who in a 24% turnout race defeated a fellow Republican 58-42% The fact that Democrats did not contest this race is remarkable when you consider that this district once gave Democrats Kathleen Blanco and Mary Landrieu 65% and 52% of the vote, respectively. And until Rep. Mills’ recent party switch, only Democrats represented this seat.
As a result of this special election, Republicans have a 54-46 majority in the House, with 4 Independents and 1 vacancy. The last House vacancy will be filled in an April 30 special election. Republicans are guaranteed a win here as well, as two Republicans qualified in a district in Vermilion and Cameron Parishes that similarly voted for Democrats Blanco and Landrieu in recent elections.
It is the East Baton Rouge Family Court race that will have pundits scratching their heads for some time. In a major upset, Ways and Means chairman Hunter Greene (R-Baton Rouge) lost 51-49% to political newcomer (and fellow Republican) Charlene Day in a low (11%) turnout race. What happened?
In The Last Hayride, John Maginnis described Baton Rouge as “…three isolated and separate worlds: the newcomer professionals and old families of South Baton Rouge and LSU, the rednecks and union workers of North Baton Rouge and the plants; and the blacks. Since no one trusted the other enough to work together, political control came by playing one group off against the other…” In this race, you had a South Baton Rouge (Rep. Hunter Greene) candidate against a North Baton Rouge (Charlene Day) candidate.
These divergent demographics of East Baton Rouge Parish were also reflected in the Family Court district, which stretched from Zachary (Area 1 on the map) in the north to the affluent neighborhoods near the Country Club of Louisiana in the south (Area 6 on the map). 11% of the district voters resided in Rep. Greene’s district, while another 38% lived in areas south of Florida Boulevard (Areas 5 and 6 on the map) that most locals would associate with “South Baton Rouge.” North Baton Rouge-ish precincts in Central and Zachary (Areas 1 and 3 on the map) made another 38% of the vote, while black neighborhoods north of Florida Boulevard (Areas 2 and 4 on the map) made up the remaining 19% of the vote.
As expected, Charlene Day carried the north Baton Rouge-ish areas of Central and Zachary with 74% of the vote – voter turnout there was 11.5%. Voters in Hunter Greene’s house district had a nearly identical 11% turnout, and they gave Rep. Greene 73% of the vote. While voters in other South Baton Rouge precincts similarly favored Rep. Greene, support there was not nearly as one sided (Rep. Greene got 67% there), and the turnout was slightly less, at 9.3%. All in all, Rep. Greene received 67% of the vote of South Baton Rougeans, with 10% voter turnout. The black neighborhoods (all north of Florida Blvd) only had 3% turnout, but gave Charlene Day 55% of the vote.
Did voter intensity matter? We estimate that if all areas that voted on election day (Rep. Greene carried the early vote 457 to 445) had voted at the same rate of turnout, Rep. Greene would have won by 46 votes, instead of losing by 155 votes.