Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – House District 65

Incumbent – “Clif” Richardson (R – Term Limited in 2019)

District Map

House District 65

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 15873 (72%) 15975 (76%)
Barack Obama (D) 5886 (27%) 4865 (23%)
Others 295 (1%) 288 (1%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 8353 (38%) 7342 (35%)
John Kennedy (R) 13084 (60%) 13219 (63%)
Others 375 (2%) 368 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 10391 (67%) 10533 (71%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 4256 (28%) 3586 (24%)
Others 801 (5%) 793 (5%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 11157 (72%) 11304 (76%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 4261 (28%) 3592 (24%)

Current District

The epicenter of major Republican gains in 1995 was, in general, in the Florida Parishes. Specifically, Republicans made major advances in a section of East Baton Rouge Parish between the Comite and Amite Rivers that is known as Central. Central is a nearly all white section of the parish whose residents have traditionally been independent minded and who cherish their relative remoteness from the rest of East Baton Rouge Parish –for years they resented the loss of control of local schools as a result of a parish-wide busing order implemented in 1981. Attempts were made for years for Central to form its own school district, but a major stumbling block was the fact that the area was unincorporated. So in 2005, the area voted to incorporate into “Central City.” Then in 2006,Louisianavoters approved the creation of theCentralSchool District, which started operation on July 1, 2007.

Traditionally, Central’s residents were conservative Democrats who would vote Republican in national and most statewide elections. However, the Republican philosophy on taxes (the area is strongly anti tax) and moral issues became more attractive over time, and Republicans routinely began to receive over 80% of the vote in Central precincts as far back as the 1980s.

At the local level, however, Central residents voted Democratic, and from 1976 to 2008, elected and re-elected Democrat Donald Ray Kennard. Though he was locally popular, the Republican trend in the district began to affect his re-election percentages: by 1991, he was only re-elected with 58% of the vote, and he actually lost in precincts south of Florida Boulevard. He saved himself electorally, however, by changing parties in 1995 before the GOP legislative wave that appeared in the fall elections. This party switch enabled him to run unopposed in 1995 and 1999, while in 2003, he easily defeated a Democratic challenger 3 to 1.

District 65 can be thought of as the “Central District.” It includes most areas south ofDenham Roadbetween the Amite andComiteRivers. It then stretches south along Flannery Road to Harrell’s Ferry Road to pick up newer suburbs in the far eastern section of East Baton Rouge Parish. Though the district includes most of Central, it has seen its black voter registration double from 10 to 20% in the last decade, as neighborhoods south of the Comite River have seen a significant black in migration. In fact, in those neighborhoods, the black voter registration is now 35%, and 48% of the district vote in these formerly heavily conservative precincts is cast here. These significant demographic changes have slightly diluted the GOP margins in the district, as Republican performances in Senate and Presidential races have declined throughout the past decade.

These demographic changes, however, have not yet registered in legislative elections: when the seat opened up in 2007 because Representative Kennard was term-limited, two Republicans announced. Local businessman/ Justice of the Peace Clif Richardson was elected 2 to 1. He, like Kennard, did really well (80%) in Central, while trailing 48-52% outside of Central. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) He was unopposed in 2011, and is allowed to seek two more terms.

New District

While the Baton Rouge area has a noticeable Republican lean to it, several legislative districts in East Baton Rouge Parish saw significant demographic changes to it that began to weaken its Republican percentages. Had nothing been done, Democratic challengers could have been competitive in an election cycle or two. However, reapportionment strengthened the Republican base here: since the district was 3% over the population of the “ideal” district, two precincts near Greenwell Springs and Flannery Road that were 66% black were removed and added to a newly created black majority district, and a precinct containing the Woodland Ridge subdivision off Harrell’s Ferry Road was added.

These changes reduced the black voter registration from 20 to 15%, and also strengthened the influence of Central: the influence of Central precincts increased from 52 to 54%. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) This new configuration should make the district safe for Republicans: what will be interesting is the extent to which demographic changes will continue to occur in areas south of Central, although given the fact that Central tends to bloc vote, these changes would have minimal, if any, political impact.