Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – Senate District 16

Incumbent – Dan Claitor (R – Term Limited in 2019)

District Map

Senate District 16


Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 46837 (72%) 38223 (69%)
Barack Obama (D) 17246 (27%) 16303 (29%)
Others 993 (2%) 943 (2%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 23274 (36%) 21304 (39%)
John Kennedy (R) 39942 (62%) 32466 (59%)
Others 1210 (2%) 1117 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 33055 (67%) 26780 (65%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 13397 (27%) 12327 (30%)
Others 2587 (5%) 2203 (5%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 37648 (76%) 31118 (75%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 11635 (24%) 10479 (25%)

Current District

In The Last Hayride, John Maginnis once described Baton Rouge as “…three separate and isolated worlds: the newcomer professionals and old families of South Baton Rouge and LSU; the rednecks and union workers of North Baton Rouge; and the blacks.”

The “isolated world” of South Baton Rouge is an area south of Florida Boulevard and east of the LSU campus. Virtually all of Baton Rouge’s prestigious neighborhoods are here, as well as the lion’s share of its white collar professionals. Senate District 16 covers most of this territory, and has a 13% black voter registration. This is up from 8% when the district lines were last drawn, and is due to noticeable demographic changes in neighborhoods on either side of South Sherwood Forest Boulevard.

Politically, this is a conservative district that has elected Republicans for years, although there has been some movement towards the Democrats (or at least more moderate candidates) both in Sherwood Forest and in neighborhoods closer to LSU.

In addition to the Republican preference of the district, there has been remarkable stability in the district’s state senate representation, with only four senators over the past four decades. Ken Osterberger was originally elected as a Democrat in 1971 and served until 1991. Though he was one of about a dozen legislators who switched parties in the mid 1980s, he was rewarded handsomely with an 81% re-election against a Democrat in 1987, which, incidentally, was the last time a Democrat contested this seat.

When Osterberger retired in 1991, there was a spirited race to succeed him. The main contenders were two Republicans then serving on the East Baton Rouge Parish Metrocouncil: Lynda Imes and Jay Dardenne. Dardenne had a reputation for years as a political comer; in his first race in 1987, he lost to Democratic attorney (and former council member) Larry Bankston by about 300 votes. The 1991 Senate reapportionment put both his and then-Senator Bankston’s residences in a senate seat dominated by heavily Democratic parishes west of the Mississippi River. This caused Bankston to move to north Baton Rouge to run in a newly created black majority seat, while Dardenne sought the open Osterberger seat, even though he didn’t yet live in the district. He upset Lynda Imes 52-48% in the runoff, and thereafter entrenched himself – he was unopposed for the next two elections, and received 78% of the vote against a fellow Republican in 2003.

Just as Cleo Fields has made a name for himself as an influential black legislator both in the state Senate and Congress, Sen. Dardenne early on became an influential member of a small but growing bloc of reform-minded senators whose ranks swelled after the 1995 elections. He reached the pinnacle of his career in the Senate as chair of the Senate Finance Committee in the second Foster administration. Perhaps in anticipation of term-limits, he successfully ran for Secretary of State in 2006; since then, was elected Lt Governor in 2010.

In the open seat race to succeed Dardenne in 2006, Dr. Bill Cassidy (who had converted to the Republican party) faced term limited state representative William Daniel. Though the conventional wisdom was that Rep. Daniel was a shoo-in, he had made enemies when he unsuccessfully ran for Mayor in 2004 and endorsed black Democrat Kip Holden in the runoff against the incumbent Republican mayor. That plus voter discontent with incumbent politicians after Hurricane Katrina played a role in Dr. Cassidy’s 58-38% upset. Even in precincts in his own state House district, Rep. Daniel trailed 50-46%.

Dr Cassidy only served for two years, as there was an open Congressional seat in 2008. Though Democrat Don Cazayoux upset Republican “Woody” Jenkins 49-46% in the May 2008 special election, Dr. Cassidy defeated Cazayoux 48-40% in the regular election that fall.

Dr. Cassidy’s election to Congress created another vacancy for this seat in early 2009. Three Republicans sought the seat: businessman Lee Domingue, attorney Dan Claitor, and businesswoman Laurinda Calongne. Though Domingue (who had religious conservative support) appeared to be the front runner, he was hurt by newspaper stories about his business practices and voting record, and trailed in the primary 34-39% to Claitor. Claitor went on to win the runoff 66-34%, as the more moderate vote that went to Calongne in the primary went en masse to Claitor in the runoff. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) Senator Claitor is allowed to seek two more terms, and was unopposed in 2011.

Proposed District

The Baton Rouge area was one part of the state that had robust population growth, and Senate District 16 was 14% overpopulated (in fact, only two state senate districts had more people, according to the 2010 Census). In general, the district contracted, which had the effect of making the district slightly more Democratic. Specifically, the following changes were made: (1) Sherwood Forest, which voted 59-35% for David Vitter, was placed in District 15, represented by black Democrat Sharon Weston-Broome; (2) 11 precincts east of Jones Creek Road in the southeastern portion of the parish were placed in newly created Senate District 6 (Vitter carried this area 75-20%); (3) several precincts between Sherwood Forest Boulevard and Jones Creek Road which were in District 13 (represented by Republican Dale Erdey) were added to the district, and Vitter carried this area 67-26%; and (4) a handful of politically marginal Garden District precincts between Acadian Thruway and City Park which supported David Vitter 48-47% were removed from District 14, represented by black Democrat Yvonne Dorsey. 

While these changes made the district marginally more Democratic, it’s highly unlikely that a Democrat would  make much headway here. Not only does the district still contain many of Baton Rouge’s higher income Republican neighborhoods, but the area tends to support its incumbents. Senator Claitor should have no problems being re-elected: the question is whether he will seek another elective office in the future, since that is what happened with the last two occupants of this seat.