Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – House District 46

Incumbent – Mike Huval (R – Term Limtied in 2023)

District Map

House District 46

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 12881 (58%) 13365 (68%)
Barack Obama (D) 8811 (40%) 5879 (30%)
Others 351 (2%) 355 (2%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 11002 (53%) 8709 (47%)
John Kennedy (R) 9421 (45%) 9583 (51%)
Others 377 (2%) 379 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 8335 (56%) 8539 (63%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 5861 (39%) 4256 (32%)
Others 761 (5%) 695 (5%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 8207 (56%) 8287 (62%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 6566 (44%) 5037 (38%)

Current District

The stereotype that most outsiders have of Louisiana is that the entire state is covered with swamps. With a handful of districts, however, that stereotype has some accuracy. House District 46 is a district with a significant portion of its landmass that is swampland. It is located almost entirely within the confines of the “upper” portion of Saint Martin Parish, except for two precincts between Cecilia and Arnaudville.

This is an area that between its 31% black voter registration and the presence of the sugarcane industry has been staunchly Democratic for years – even when Republican Presidential candidates swept the state in 1984 and 2004, St Martin Parish gave over 45% of its vote to the Democratic Presidential candidate.

However, a combination of Democrats’ weakening support with rural voters, suburbanization from Lafayette, and the drilling moratorium initiated by the Obama Administration has led to a dilution of Democratic voting strength in recent years: in the 2008 Presidential election and in the statewide races in 2010, Republican candidates carried the district by double digit margins. Even the 57% of the vote Mary Landrieu received in 2002 had dipped to 53% in her 2008 re-election, despite heavy Democratic turnout sparked by Barack Obama’s candidacy.

This collapse in Democratic fortunes has also extended to legislative races, and it could be argued that while the GOP surge in 1995 was centered in the Florida Parishes, the GOP surge of 2010 had its epicenter in places like St. Martin Parish. For years, only Democrats represented the district: Harry Benoit was its representative between 1981 and 1991. He was upset in that election by fellow Democrat Sydnie Mae Durand, who served from 1991 to 2007. Rep. Durand clearly had ambitions for another office, however: she ran unsuccessfully for Public Service Commission in 1996 and for an open state senate seat in 2007 when she was term limited out that year.

Even in 2007, Republicans were not yet competitive in St. Martin Parish: the only time they had contested the district in recent memory was in 1995, and even then, they only got 30% of the vote. The Democrats ran two candidates, and the victor was pharmacist/Parish Councilman Fred Mills, who got an impressive 84% of the vote in the primary. However, a series of events catapulted the GOP into the driver’s seat here: when state senator Troy Hebert resigned in late 2010 to accept a commissioner’s job with the Jindal administration, Rep. Mills quickly changed his party affiliation to Republican to run for Hebert’s senate seat, and not only did Mills win in the primary, but he received a whopping 89% of the vote from precincts in District 46. A special election was called shortly thereafter in the spring of 2011, and two Republicans announced. Parish Councilman/insurance agent Mike Huval, who had (like Sen. Mills) recently switched parties, won in the primary with 58% of the vote. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) He is eligible to serve three more terms, and was unopposed in 2011.

New District

Even though District 46 (thanks to suburbanization from Lafayette) was 10% overpopulated, the district was significantly reconfigured, as it was in St Martin and Iberia Parishes where the new black majority district (District 96) was created. Altogether, 31 precincts in three parishes changed hands, but those changes can be neatly summarized: (1) District 46 picked up 6 precincts along Bayou Teche between Cecilia (in St Martin Parish) and Leonville (in St Landry Parish) that were 16% black and supported David Vitter over Charlie Melancon (who represented parts of this area) 64-30%; (2) A large portion of St Martin Parish between Bayou Teche and Lafayette Parish was transferred over to the new black majority district – these precincts were 55% black and voted for Charlie Melancon 57-37%; (3) three precincts in Iberia Parish near Loreauville were added – these precincts were 36% black, and voted 56-38% for David Vitter, and (4) a single precinct at the intersection of St Martin, Iberia, and Lafayette Parishes was removed, and Vitter carried this 28% black precinct 61-35%.

These changes in total significantly strengthened the GOP base here, as the black voter registration decreased from 31 to 19%, and the Republican performances were increased to above 60%. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) While Rep. Huval shouldn’t have re-election worries (he was unopposed in 2011), it will be interesting to see whether the GOP wave in 2010-2011, combined with reapportionment, will cause Democrats to write off a district that they once securely held.