Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – House District 64

Incumbent – Open Seat (Currently held by “Bodi” White (R))

District Map

House District 64

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 18908 (78%) 15494 (79%)
Barack Obama (D) 4954 (20%) 3759 (19%)
Others 328 (1%) 249 (1%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 8224 (34%) 6278 (33%)
John Kennedy (R) 15204 (64%) 12609 (66%)
Others 453 (2%) 350 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 11897 (71%) 9958 (72%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 3954 (23%) 3054 (22%)
Others 986 (6%) 774 (6%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 12443 (74%) 10482 (76%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 4388 (26%) 3313 (24%)

Current District

The 1995 statewide elections in Louisiana were a watershed event because for the first time, Republicans established a significant presence in both houses of the Legislature. The epicenter for those gains was in the Florida Parishes, particularly in districts that were stereotypically thought of as friendly territory for populist Democrats. One of those districts was House District 64, which not only voted a Republican in for the first time, but did so by a wide margin, and since then has not come close to voting for a Democratic candidate.

When House District 64 was first created in 1971, it was considered the “North Baton Rouge district.” Three redistrictings later, it now only includes the northeast portion of East Baton Rouge and the fast growing areas in Livingston Parish north of Denham Springs, Walker, and Livingston. While the black population is a relatively low 14% of the electorate, that is a slight uptick from 12% when the district lines were last drawn.

Politically, this is a district with populist Democratic heritage that is growing weaker with each successive election. It is best to describe this district in its three component parts. Precincts between Highway 19 and the Comite River in East Baton Rouge Parish cast 20% of the vote and are part of North Baton Rouge. Historically, this was blue collar white, but the black voter registration in this area has increased from 40 to 49% over the last decade, and the Democratic voting strength has accordingly increased in this part of the district (Charlie Melancon carried these precincts 55-39%). The next section of the district is in East Baton Rouge Parish between the Comite and Amite Rivers. This area (which is most of the same territory as the newly created town/school district of Central) is heavily Republican and has a 14% black registration (an increase from 10% from a decade ago) – David Vitter carried this area 72-23%. The final portion of the district is the fast growing northern fringe of Livingston Parish, which not only casts 55% of the district vote, but has a miniscule 1% black voter registration. Republicans dominate in this portion of the district, as David Vitter carried the area 81-12%.

The movement of suburban and exurban voters in the Florida Parishes towards the Republican Party was reflected in the representation this district has had. The district’s first representative, Richard Baker, held the seat for four terms with little incident until he switched to the Republican Party in 1985 in preparation for his successful 1986 run for Congress. In the special election to replace him, the district reverted back to its populist Democratic heritage: Democrat Mike McCleary overcame a stiff Republican challenge to win with 52% in the special election runoff in early 1987. He was then re-elected in 1987 and 1991 with 58 and 66% of the vote against Republican challengers. When Rep. McCleary retired in 1995, Republican Tony Perkins (a protégé of local conservative “Woody” Jenkins) was elected with a whopping 63% of the vote in the primary against a Democrat. Rep. Perkins was unopposed in 1999 and retired shortly after an unsuccessful run for Mary Landrieu’s Senate seat in 2002. His successor, Republican “Bodi” White, was initially elected in 2003 with no opposition – impressive for someone who had not held elected office before. He faced minor opposition in 2007 and was re-elected with an impressive 77% of the vote. Though he would have been able to seek one more term, he is vacating the seat to run for a newly created Senate seat between Baton Rouge and Hammond.

New District

Robust population growth along the I-12 and I-10 corridors resulted in the creation of five new House seats in the area. This also meant that many of the existing districts in the area had to shrink in size. District 64 was 20% over the population of an “ideal” district and was compacted in both the East Baton Rouge and Livingston portions of the district. In East Baton Rouge Parish, two precincts in Zachary between Highway 19 and the Comite River were added to an existing district based in the Felicianas. Over in Livingston Parish, roughly all of the territory east of Highway 447 was placed in a newly created House district in the area.

Overall, the changes reduced the black voter registration from 14 to 13% and slightly diluted the influence of Livingston Parish from 55 to 53%. While the open seat is almost certain to elect a Republican (Mary Landrieu’s 33% of the vote in 2007 is kind of a recent “high water mark” for Democrats here), it will be interesting to see if the next representative comes from East Baton Rouge or Livingston Parish.