Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – Senate District 7

Incumbent – David Heitmeier (D – Term Limited in 2019)

District Map

Senate District 7

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 14539 (36%) 14539 (36%)
Barack Obama (D) 25071 (63%) 25071 (63%)
Others 487 (1%) 487 (1%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 27659 (72%) 27659 (72%)
John Kennedy (R) 10020 (26%) 10020 (26%)
Others 679 (2%) 679 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 8830 (34%) 8830 (34%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 15865 (60%) 15865 (60%)
Others 1640 (6%) 1640 (6%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 9126 (35%) 9126 (35%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 17043 (65%) 17043 (65%)

Current District

When Republicans first established a presence in the Louisiana Legislature in the 1980s, the bulk of its membership came from metropolitan New Orleans. As time went on, however, some of those districts that were longtime Republican beachheads (particularly those in the city of New Orleans) began to trend Democratic due to a combination of a more decentralized black voting base and a emerging bloc of white liberal voters.

Senate District 7 is one of a handful of state Senate districts that were actually recaptured by the Democrats after initially having Republican representation. The district is centered on the Westbank, and contains all but two precincts in the Algiers section of New Orleans, portions of Gretna and Harvey in Jefferson Parish, and (added after the 2000 reapportionment) a handful of precincts in northern Plaquemines around Belle Chasse. The lines were drawn with just enough blacks (currently 53%, up from 47% in 2003) to elect a white Democrat. The portions of the district in Algiers and in Jefferson Parish are majority African-American, and easily outvote the Belle Chasse portion (currently 12% of the voters) of the district.

The black majority puts the Democrats in a strong position politically, but it doesn’t hurt that there is an emerging bloc of white liberals in Orleans Parish. This is the one district where the Republican percentages have been steadily decreasing throughout the decade, to the point that Democrats can count on 2 to 1 margins from the district.

While the district tends to re-elect its incumbents, the clear trend towards the Democrats has been relected in its legislative representation. From 1971-1991, Fritz Windhorst represented the district. Though initially elected as a Democrat, he was part of a “first wave” of party switchers in 1985, and was rewarded with a 74% re-election vote in 1987. When he retired in 1991, two-term Democratic state Representative Francis Heitmeier was elected with 55% in the primary against five opponents. As time went on, the increasing influence of the black vote in the Westbank further solidified Senator Heitmeier’s position with each successive re-election, to the point that he was unopposed in his last two elections.

Senator Heitmeier was term-limited in 2007. Perhaps in anticipation of this, he ran for Secretary State in 2006, but finished second behind state senator Jay Dardenne (R-Baton Rouge), and withdrew from the runoff. Three candidates ran for the seat, but Senator Heitmeier’s brother David (who is an eye doctor) finished first in the primary with 49% of the vote. He then easily won the runoff with 63% against Republican Paul Richard. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) Senator (David) Heitmeier is allowed to serve two more terms, and was unopposed in 2011.

New District

Redistricting in the New Orleans metropolitan area was a contentious affair due to the heavy population losses. Senate District 7, however, was less than 5% under populated, and was left alone, since a 5% population variance is permitted when drawing district lines. The fact that the district was unchanged puts Senator Heitmeier in a secure electoral position; however, as the black voter population approaches 60% of the electorate, it will be interesting to see whether any substantial black challengers emerge in current or future elections.