Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – Senate District 12

Incumbent – Ben Nevers (D – Term Limited in 2015)

District Map

Senate District 12

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 40851 (68%) 34376 (67%)
Barack Obama (D) 18596 (31%) 16452 (32%)
Others 1018 (2%) 814 (2%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 27004 (46%) 23312 (46%)
John Kennedy (R) 30353 (51%) 25635 (51%)
Others 1634 (3%) 1379 (3%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 26633 (66%) 22464 (66%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 11299 (28%) 9686 (28%)
Others 2369 (6%) 1958 (6%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 26373 (65%) 22191 (65%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 13914 (35%) 11914 (35%)

Current District

The 1995 elections brought a noticeable Republican presence to the Louisiana Senate for the first time as several long-time Democratic incumbents were defeated by their Republican challengers. District 12 was one of those districts that contributed to the GOP “surge.”

Senate District 12 is located in the Florida Parishes and contains all or parts of four parishes. It is a district in demographic transition: 37% of the voters live in northern Tangipahoa and St Helena, and in these precincts, you historically have had a potent coalition of blacks (33% of the voters in these parishes) and white populist Democrats. You have a similar situation in Washington Parish: 31% of the voters live here, and 28% of those voters are black. There is also a portion of St. Tammany Parish from Abita Springs to the Washington Parish live that casts 32% of the vote and has only a 7% black population. This is a part of the district that has seen the heaviest growth, and is strongly Republican.

Overall, you have a district that has had a constant 23% black voter registration and leans Republican, particularly in Presidential elections. Recently, however, suburban growth in St. Tammany and Tangipahoa, combined with the fading appeal of Democratic candidates to rural voters, has contributed to a Republican trend in the district, and in 2010, both David Vitter and Jay Dardenne received about 2/3 of the district vote.

Republicans do not yet a firm foothold here when it comes to legislative elections, however. For decades, the district was represented by Democrat B.B. “Sixty” Rayburn, who usually coasted to re-election: his 65% re-election in 1991 was actually a low point for him. However, by the 1995 elections, changing demographics, disgust at the Edwards administration, and Rayburn’s connection to a local video poker scandal contributed to Rayburn’s 51-49% upset by Republican Phil Short. Senator Short only served 3 years, as he resigned his position to take a job with the Marines in Washington. He was succeeded by state Representative Jerry Thomas from Bogalusa, who switched to the Republican Party to make the race. He served for 5 years, but chose not to run for re-election in 2003 after an incident in 2002 where he was arrested for engaging in lewd conduct during a police raid at an adult bookstore in New Orleans. Thomas was succeeded by Democratic state Representative Ben Nevers of Washington Parish, who had a solid 43-21% lead over Republican David Lindsey in the primary. Because Democrats received the bulk of the remaining vote (particularly in then Democratic-leaning St. Helena and Tangipahoa Parishes), Lindsey decided to withdraw, and Nevers was elected. Senator Nevers was unopposed in 2007 and is allowed to serve one more term. 

Proposed District

Redistricting in the Florida Parishes was an “embarrassment of riches”: Senate District 12 was 17% over populated (in fact, only 5 Senate districts had more people), and had to be pared back. St. Helena Parish was removed from the district, and in St/ Tammany Parish, Abita Springs and an area near Pearl River was removed as well. In Tangipahoa, the lines were adjusted some to include more black precincts along US 51 between Tickfaw and Hammond. Overall, the changes increased the black voter registration from 23 to 25%, but had almost no political impact. While Senator Nevers shouldn’t have re-election problems, you will have a competitive race when the seat opens up. Republicans can count on a big vote from St. Tammany Parish (which still casts 23% of the vote, and that number will only increase), but will have to make headway with rural and suburban whites in Tangipahoa Parish (or even with rural whites in Washington Parish). While a lot depends on the strength/geographic base of the candidates, this is the kind of district that Republicans have to win if they want to strengthen their bench in the Senate.