Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – Senate District 20

Incumbent – Norby Chabert (R – Term Limited in 2019)

District Map


Senate District 20


Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 30612 (70%) 29252 (71%)
Barack Obama (D) 11566 (27%) 10693 (26%)
Others 1288 (3%) 1199 (3%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 21091 (51%) 19595 (50%)
John Kennedy (R) 19322 (47%) 18750 (48%)
Others 1102 (3%) 1041 (3%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 17923 (65%) 17543 (66%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 8309 (30%) 7828 (29%)
Others 1487 (5%) 1347 (5%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 18090 (66%) 17719 (67%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 9359 (34%) 8768 (33%)

Current District

Senate District 20 is located in the southernmost portions of the state and contains southern Lafourche Parish (generally, the portion of the parish south of Highway 90) and the eastern/southern portions of Terrebonne Parish. This is a nearly all white district: the black voter registration is 13%, which has not budged much since the lines were last drawn, and nearly all of this demographic is in Houma in Terrebonne Parish.

Historically, this was a swing district, as it would vote Republican at the top of the ticket, while voting at about the statewide average in statewide races (which back then meant supporting Democrats like Kathleen Blanco and Mary Landrieu). In recent years, there has been unmistakable swing towards the Republicans, and the drilling moratorium has certainly contributed to this trend – in the 2010 elections, the three Republicans at the top of the ticket (David Vitter for Senate, Jay Dardenne for Lt Governor, and Jeff Landry for Congress) all received about 65% of the vote. This is especially noteworthy, since in the Senate race, Charlie Melancon (who only received 30% of the vote) had represented this area in Congress for three terms.

This movement towards the Republican has only occurred very recently here in legislative races, and this district is one of the few in the state that has seen its share of turbulent politics – between 1983 and 2001, no one was elected with more than 62% of the vote. Democrat Leonard Chabert was its Senator from 1980 to 1992, and was forced into a runoff each time he was on the ballot. His son Marty followed in his footsteps, but only served one term (from 1992 to 1996, when he decided against running again). Democratic physician Mike Robichaux was elected in 1995 in the runoff, although in 1999, former Governor Mike Foster got personally involved, strongly supporting Republican challenger Chris Bollinger, who came up short with 44%. Senator Robichaux resigned in 2001, and was replaced by Democratic state representative Reggie Dupre, who also faced Bollinger, and was only elected with 52%. However, he broke the string of close elections, and was easily re-elected in 2003, and he ran unopposed in 2007. Senator Dupre also resigned in the middle of his term to accept a position as director of levees for Terrebonne Parish.

Senator Dupre’s resignation set up another contested special election: Democrat Norby Chabert (another son of the late state Senator) ran against Republican Brent Callais and was elected with 54% of the vote in the primary. He was also a surprise party switcher earlier this year, probably recognizing that the Democratic Party label had become toxic in this part of the state, which is heavily dependent on offshore oil drilling. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) Senator Chabert is allowed to serve two more terms, and was unopposed in 2011.

New District

Redistricting in this part of the state was relatively simple. The demographics weren’t there to create additional “majority minority” seats, and District 20 was 6% over the population of the “ideal” district. Though the essential core of the district (southern Lafourche, and south/east Terrebonne) was preserved, 34 precincts were traded among adjacent districts. In Lafourche Parish, a string of precincts between Mathews and Raceland was removed and placed in the district of term limited senator Joel Chaisson (District 19). Similarly, the district gained a handful of precincts southeast of Thibodaux that was in Chaisson’s district. In Terrebonne, there were also two trades: precincts northwest of Houma were placed in Senate District 21 (represented by term limited Democrat “Butch” Gautreaux), while the district received a handful of precincts to the west of Houma. These trades had a negligible demographic or political impact, although the district did become slightly more Republican as a result of these trades. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) Given the turbulent political history of the district, it will be interesting to see if Senator Chabert’s party switch keeps him out of electoral hot water in the future.