Louisiana 2011 Legislative Analysis – House District 68

Incumbent – Steve Carter (R – Term Limited in 2019)

District Map

House District 68

Vote History

2008 President

  Current District New District
John McCain (R) 11069 (56%) 10982 (62%)
Barack Obama (D) 8277 (42%) 6555 (37%)
Others 314 (2%) 292 (2%)


2008 Senate

  Current District New District
Mary Landrieu (D) 9565 (49%) 7955 (45%)
John Kennedy (R) 9464 (49%) 9274 (53%)
Others 403 (2%) 394 (2%)


2010 Senate

  Current District New District
David Vitter (R) 7891 (54%) 7660 (58%)
Charlie Melancon (D) 6131 (42%) 4820 (37%)
Others 722 (5%) 652 (5%)


2010 Lt Governor

  Current District New District
Jay Dardenne (R) 9725 (65%) 9203 (70%)
Caroline Fayard (D) 5169 (35%) 4036 (30%)

Current District

The Baton Rouge area is one part of the state that does not have a well-defined image. It is inhabited by a diverse group of people: a large black minority of all economic strata, a significant professional population, the influence of state government, the presence of academia, the religious conservative influence of several large churches, a significant Catholic minority, and a large and relatively well-paid blue collar workforce employed by the petrochemical industry. With this demographic “gumbo”, both parties are competitive in the area. Overall, Republicans hold the upper hand, and hold nearly all of the white majority legislative seats in the area.

District 68 is located in the city of Baton Rouge, and is a diverse district. It starts at the LSU Lakes, and includes a portion of the LSU campus. From there, it includes most of the Garden District, then it picks up a string of neighborhoods roughly between I-10 and Bayou Duplantier almost all the way to the Country Club of Louisiana. Many of Baton Rouge’s pricier subdivisions are in the district, like Bocage, Walden, the Lakeshore Drive area, and brand new subdivisions across Highland Road from the Country Club of Louisiana. However, this district is not a Republican stronghold – Republicans usually are victorious here, but not by overwhelming margins. 

Why are Democrats competitive here? There are two reasons: (1) You have a significant 23% black voter bloc (it was 22% a decade ago) that runs the gamut of economic strata from lower-income Valley Park to middle-income Mayfair to affluent neighborhoods near the 10/12 split like Concord Estates/Stratford Place, (2) in the precincts closer to LSU (especially in neighborhoods like the Garden District and Southdowns) you have a constituency that prefers candidates more moderate in tone – former state representative William Daniel once remarked in a 2005 interview with PoliticsLa.com that the district overall is “fiscally conservative, but moderate in other areas.”

This diverse coalition once enabled Democrats to hold onto this seat long after other House districts in the Baton Rouge area began electing Republicans. It also didn’t hurt that the Democrats who ran here were able to appeal to the business establishment that inhabits many of the neighborhoods in the district. Democrat Kevin Reilly (who made the infamous remark in 1985 about Louisiana being a “banana republic”) represented the district from 1971 to 1987, and never had electoral troubles. He vacated the district in 1987 in an unsuccessful run for state Treasurer (curiously, the winner in that race was Mary Landrieu). He was succeeded by his son Sean, who defeated a Republican 53-47%, then went on to serve two terms. When the younger Reilly retired in 1995, this district bucked the trend of Republicans capturing favorable seats in the Baton Rouge area because the Democrats had another attractive candidate: wealthy oil executive William Daniel, who eked out a 51% runoff victory, then went on to serve two terms. Rep. Daniel, however, was one of several legislators who switched to the Republican Party in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

Rep. Daniel was term-limited in 2007 and, in anticipation of this, ran for an open state Senate seat that became vacant when Jay Dardenne was elected Secretary of State in 2006. However, Dr. Bill Cassidy (who is now Baton Rouge’s Congressman), in his first run for public office, upset Rep. Daniel 58-38% in the primary. Three Republicans sought the open House seat in 2007, and lobbyist (and former Democrat) Kyle Ardoin faced businessman Steve Carter in the runoff. Though Ardoin was a strong candidate and was well funded, he was probably hurt by Carter’s campaign ads comparing Ardoin’s party switching (Ardoin was elected to and sought political office in neighboring West Baton Rouge as a Democrat) to former LSU coach Nick Saban’s job hopping. In the end, Carter won by less than 100 votes by posting strong margins in the more conservative areas, and by not running too far behind in the black precincts. (UPDATED 9/9/2011) He is allowed to seek two more terms, and was unopposed in 2011.

New District

Redistricting was not a big deal in Baton Rouge, since a “win win” strategy was pursued by the delegation: to recognize both the population growth and demographic changes which have occurred in East Baton Rouge Parish over the past decade, the additional House seat awarded to East Baton Rouge was drawn to elect a black. In doing so, the Republican leanings were strengthened in several marginal districts in South Baton Rouge, including District 68. 

Even though the fact that the district was 6% overpopulated meant that the district could have been left alone, the jagged district lines were smoothed out. A precinct in the Capital Heights area was picked up from District 61 (represented by term limited Democrat Michael Jackson), and nearly all of the neighborhoods south of Perkins Road (Pollard Estates, Kenilworth, Mayfair, and Lakeside) were placed in neighboring District 70 (represented by Republican Franklin Foil). District 68 then picked up Westminster and Jefferson Terrace, which are conservative upper middle class subdivisions.

The redrawn district now has a slightly reduced 18% black voter registration and includes nearly all territory south of Government between Perkins Road and Jefferson Highway. Overall, this is still a district with a decided, but not an overwhelming, Republican lean. Rep. Carter (or any other Republican) shouldn’t have any problems getting elected here.