It’s (2011) Election Season in Louisiana !

Once Labor Day is over, candidate qualifying begins Tuesday morning, and continues until 5PM Thursday afternoon. Up for election this fall are all (1) all statewide elected officials (Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, etc.), (2) all 144 legislative seats, (3) the state education board (also known as BESE), and (5) local and parish wide races, although three parishes (Avoyelles, Concordia, and E Feliciana) will not be having police jury elections this fall, since their new district lines were not approved in time by the Justice Department.

The real question (which has never before been an issue) is: to what extent will the formerly dominant Democrats even compete in elections this fall? Term limited state senator Rob Marionneaux (D-Maringouin) decided at the last minute against running, which means that no top tier candidates are currently challenging Governor Jindal. Meanwhile, the Republican treasurer, commissioner of insurance, and commissioner of agriculture do not even have any announced opponents at this time.

Similarly in the legislature, the GOP holds 22 out of 39 Senate seats, and the recent party switch by Independent Joel Robideaux of Lafayette means that 57 of 105 House seats are held by Republicans. At the present time, JMC Enterprises of Louisiana knows of 76 House and 29 Senate seats where a Republican is running. This count will, of course, change some by the end of qualifying, because there are always last minute surprises during this three day period. For example, in 2004, Congressman Rodney Alexander first qualified as a Democrat, then the next day resubmitted his qualifying papers to run – as a Republican. Last year, former Supreme Court justice Chet Traylor decided to challenge Senator David Vitter literally minutes before the conclusion of qualifying.

Therefore, we will keep track of qualifying each day, and report back as to what we saw. We are particularly interested in the number of incumbents/candidates who don’t get any opposition, as well as the number of seats the GOP contested (for comparison’s sake, in 2007, Republicans contested 23 out of 39 Senate seats and 67 out of 105 House seats).

Since Louisiana has briefly experimented with party primaries in the past with Congressional primaries/runoffs, it’s important to reiterate that qualifying for the fall elections is for all candidates, regardless of party. Candidates for a given race will face off on October 22. If a candidate in a competitive race received 50% of the vote in the October primary, he/she is elected then and there. Otherwise, the top two finishers (regardless of party) will face each other in the November 19 runoff.