Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – House District 47

Incumbent – Bob Hensgens (R – Term Limited in 2023)

District Map

House District 47

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 12818 (71%) 14592 (71%)
Barack Obama (D) 4946 (27%) 5544 (27%)
Others 395 (2%) 442 (2%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 8872 (50%) 9847 (49%)
John Kennedy (R) 8250 (47%) 9621 (48%)
Others 483 (3%) 529 (3%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 7239 (67%) 8343 (67%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 2802 (26%) 3232 (26%)
Others 700 (7%) 824 (7%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 6489 (61%) 7568 (61%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 4190 (39%) 4758 (39%)

 Current District

House District 47 includes the swampy coastline of southwest Louisiana and contains all of Cameron Parish and most of Vermilion Parish except for the eastern and northern fringes. It has a 14% black voter registration, which is a slight increase from the 13% black voter registration the last time the lines were drawn.

Historically, the district supported Democrats for statewide races (especially if the Democrat came from Acadiana), while voting mildly Republican in Presidential elections. However, there has been an unmistakable movement towards the right here in recent years – even with strong statewide Democratic turnout in 2008, Mary Landrieu’s 50-47% plurality was actually a drop in her performance here compared to her 2002 race, when she carried the district with 54%. This increasing Republican strength also showed up in other statewide races, to the point that in the 2010 elections, Republicans like David Vitter and Jay Dardenne posted the kind of margins that only some Republican Presidential candidates would get.

This is a district that re-elects its incumbents, who until recently were all Democrats. From 1979 to 1995, San Theriot represented the district before leaving to run for Vermilion Parish Clerk of Court. He was succeeded by Democrat Mickey Frith, who served for three terms before term limits forced him out in 2007 (he unsuccessfully ran against former senator Nick Gautreaux that year). This was one of several open seats in rural Louisiana that Republicans through the LCRM (Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority) successfully targeted. Its candidate, assistant district attorney Jonathan Perry, was elected in the first primary with an impressive 55% of the vote.

Representative Frith was term-limited in 2007 and unsuccessfully ran against incumbent Senator Nick Gautreaux. Replacing him was assistant district attorney (and Republican) Jonathan Perry, who received an impressive 55% of the vote in the primary, with equal percentages in both parishes. Rep. Perry recently vacated this seat to run successfully for a state senate seat that became vacant earlier this year (his Senate victory gave the Republicans a numerical majority for the first time since Reconstruction).

Amazingly, in a district that was once solidly Democratic in most races, no Democrats even filed to run for the open House seat. The Republican candidates were both mayors and recent Republicans: Linda Hardee of Kaplan and Bob Hensgens of Gueydan. Hensgens was elected with 52% of the vote. He swept Cameron Parish with 69% of the vote and performed strongly enough in his hometown of Gueydan (where he got a near unanimous 86%) and in conservative precincts in Abbeville (he got 59% of the vote in precincts that voted for Perry in the special senate election) to win. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) He is allowed to serve three more terms, and was unopposed in 2011.

Proposed District

Redistricting in this part of the state was not too complex – population growth in Acadiana meant that no districts had to be eliminated, and a new black majority district was created along Bayou Teche. With District 47, however, population losses from Hurricane Rita in 2005 resulted in a district that was 9% under populated. Additions were made in two areas: in Calcasieu Parish, three precincts near Vinton and south of Lake Charles were added, and a section of northern Vermilion Parish was absorbed from District 31 (represented by Republican Nancy Landry). There was also the removal of four precincts between Abbeville and Pecan Island. Overall, these changes had almost no political impact for Republicans in general or for Rep. Hensgens specifically – he carried those removed precincts with the same 52% of the vote he received district-wide. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) While the demographics of the current and proposed district are favorable to Rep. Hensgens (in fact, he was unopposed in 2011), it will be interesting to see whether the Democrats will even bother to contest the district at some point in the future.