Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – Senate District 35

Incumbent – Bob Kostelka (R – Term Limited in 2015)

District Map

Senate District 35

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 38015 (71%) 41609 (82%)
Barack Obama (D) 14771 (28%) 8333 (16%)
Others 639 (1%) 732 (1%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 18727 (37%) 13554 (28%)
John Kennedy (R) 31434 (61%) 34162 (70%)
Others 1041 (2%) 1115 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 22242 (70%) 24241 (77%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 7844 (25%) 5393 (17%)
Others 1841 (6%) 1990 (6%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 22352 (70%) 24080 (77%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 9483 (30%) 7359 (23%)

Current District

Senate District 35 is a district that best captures the transition of north Louisiana voters from preferring conservative Democrats to voting for Republicans. It contains all of Jackson and Lincoln Parishes, and a portion of Ouachita Parish stretching from the Lincoln Parish line to the northern fringes of Monroe. This is a district with a moderate (21%) black voter registration that has remained relatively stable, with most of that population coming from Grambling in Lincoln Parish.

This is a fairly Republican district, as the strong Republican preferences in Lincoln and Ouachita Parishes offset the historically rural Democratic tendencies in Jackson Parish. Republicans can typically expect about 2 to 1 support in elections here.

However, this Republican preference in “top of the ballot” races was not apparent in legislative races here until recently. From 1987-1999, Democrat Randy Ewing (described by John Maginnis as “the Senate’s most effective voice for reform”) represented the district. He served for three terms with little incident, and in his last term, former Governor Mike Foster chose him to be Senate President. When Ewing retired in 1999, he was replaced by Democrat Bill Jones, who was the brother of former LSU and pro quarterback Bert Jones. Jones, however, did not enjoy a lengthy tenure like Ewing did; retired judge Bob Kostelka defeated him 52-48% in a bitter campaign in 2003. The patterns of support were generally along geographical lines: Kostelka received 62% in his home parish of Ouachita while Jones received 60% in Lincoln. The “tie breaker” was historically Democratic Jackson Parish, which only gave the Democratic incumbent a 90-vote margin.

The nasty feelings from the 2003 race ebbed, and Senator Kostelka was re-elected without opposition in 2007 – it certainly didn’t hurt that he was representing a constituency that was already favorable towards Republican candidates. He is allowed to serve one more term.

Proposed District

Redistricting in northeast Louisiana was a little tricky: though Senate District 35 was 3% over the population of an “ideal” district, pressure (and presumed legal mandates) to maintain or increase minority representation to offset losses in New Orleans resulted in a new minority district being drawn between Alexandria and Ruston. This resulted in the removal of black precincts in Lincoln and Jackson Parish from the district. Furthermore, some portions of northern Lincoln and Ouachita Parishes were added to Senate District 33 (represented by Republican Mike Walsworth) so that district could have enough people. These changes necessitated the southward movement of District 35 towards Alexandria: rural precincts in eastern Grant and Winn Parishes were added, as were suburban precincts in Ball and Pineville in Rapides Parish. These changes reduced the black voter registration from 21 to 9%, and transformed a Republican district into one that was solidly Republican, as 78% of the district’s voters now live in the more heavily populated areas in and around Ruston, Monroe, and Alexandria. So the question now is not Kostelka can be re-elected, or whether another Republican can succeed him in this 3 to 1 Republican district. The issue now is whether the next Senator will come from the Monroe area (which has 50% of the voters), or from one of the other parishes.