In this installment, we would like to discuss the changes to House and Senate districts in the Florida Parishes with the strong caveat that there may still be last minute changes to the lines by either chamber. There is also the ever present possibility of a gubernatorial veto, and the Justice Department could still reject the lines even if the governor signs off on them.
State House Districts
Currently: 15 representatives (5 Democrat, 9 Republican, 1 Independent)
The redistricting strategy employed by the House leadership in the Florida Parishes was essentially a defensive one (although not to the same extent that it was in areas west of the Mississippi River): shoring up marginal Republicans by reducing their black voting percentages, while creating new districts (the area gained a whopping 4 new House seats) similar in political complexion to the districts that were eliminated in the New Orleans area.
First, let’s talk about the shoring up of marginal Republicans. Republicans some time ago have nearly maximized their holdings in this region, although the seat of Harold Ritchie in Washington Parish could be competitive in an open seat situation. About all that could be done was to strengthen Hunter Greene: his seat (like the predecessor seat “Woody” Jenkins held for three decades) saw its black voter registration double throughout the last decade from 16 to 31%. Leaving the lines untouched would have given Democrats an opening, probably by the 2019 election cycle. Redistricting shifted the district south and southeast into heavily Republican neighborhoods like Azalea Lakes, White Oak Landing, Country Club of Louisiana, and University Club Plantation. Similarly, freshmen Republicans “Steve” Carter and Franklin Foil traded precincts between each other to strengthen the Republican leanings of Rep. Carter’s district (which in its present form only gave David Vitter 52% of the vote).
The next piece of the redistricting puzzle here was the term limited seats. Only Independent Michael Jackson and Republican Tom McVea were term limited. Rep. Jackson’s inner city district (which almost certainly will be recaptured by the Democrats this fall) was moved into Villa Del Rey (as an illustration of demographic changes that have occurred in Baton Rouge, this neighborhood was once a conservative stronghold when “Woody” Jenkins represented it), while the conservative leanings in Rep. Mc Vea’s seat were diluted somewhat by the removal of part of Zachary and all of a conservative portion of Tangipahoa Parish, coupled with the addition of more Democratic parts of the Felicianas.
Finally, with regards to the four new seats that were added, each seat, in partisan terms, generally followed the complexion of the original seat when it was in Metro New Orleans:
- Republican John LaBruzzo’s seat in Bucktown/Old Metairie was eliminated, and was recreated in south Livingston, south Ascension (Pelican Point subdivision and Sorrento), and parts of the east bank of St James and St John. This recreated district is 17% black and voted 62% for David Vitter (60% for Dardenne). The majority of the district is in Livingston Parish, and this will likely go Republican this fall;
- House Speaker Jim Tucker’s district in Algiers/Terrytown (one of three Republican seats to have voted for Obama) was eliminated and recreated in central Tangipahoa Parish. This new district is 15% black and voted 72% for Vitter (69% for Dardenne). This almost certainly will be a Republican seat in its new incarnation for a Hammond based candidate;
- Recent party convert Walker Hines saw his liberal Uptown New Orleans district (which voted 19% for Vitter and 24% for Dardenne) eliminated and recreated in an area of Livingston north of I-12 between Walker and Holden. In its recreated form, the new district is 4% black and gave both David Vitter and Jay Dardenne about 75% of the vote – Republicans should have little trouble holding this district;
- The seat once held by Cedric Richmond in New Orleans East was recreated in Baton Rouge using portions of Regina Barrow and Hunter Greene’s districts. This district, which stretches from Brookstown to Park Forest/Monticello and then into portions of Sherwood Forest was once solidly conservative. No longer: the new district is 63% black by voter registration, and voted 29% for Vitter and 34% for Dardenne;
In general, we don’t foresee much partisan change in the House delegation of this region, particularly when you consider the House seats in Metro New Orleans that were eliminated to allow for new seats to be created here. Other districts in the region not mentioned here were not changed significantly.
State Senate Districts
Currently: 5 senators (3 Democrat, 2 Republican)
As with the House delegation, there is not much the Republicans can do in terms of legislative gains in the area, unless Democrat Ben Nevers retires – his district voted 65% for Vitter (64% for Dardenne) and was not greatly changed in redistricting. Although existing districts weren’t significantly altered, a New Orleans/Northshore district represented by retiring Republican Julie Quinn was eliminated and moved into the region. This district, which looks like an upside down “U”, is about 55% in Eeast Baton Rouge Parish in an area between Central and Azalea Lakes. Another 40% live in Tangipahoa. It should remain Republican: Vitter got 67% and Dardenne 70%, which is a carbon copy of the present district’s partisan leanings. The real question is whether the victor will come from Hammond or Baton Rouge, as the Central portion of East Baton Rouge holds the balance of power, and will not necessarily support a Baton Rouge candidate who lives south of Florida Boulevard.
Other than the change mentioned above, no senators in the region are term limited, so we are not expecting significant political changes in the area’s senate delegation.
NEXT ARTICLE: Changes to legislative districts in New Orleans