INCUMBENT: Dan Claitor (Republican)
DESCRIPTION: Senate District 16 has for decades been considered “the south Baton Rouge district” although it once stretched as far north as Central. Robust population growth in the southern/southeastern portions of East Baton Rouge Parish have caused the district over time to be repeatedly pared back, and today it includes most territory south of Florida Boulevard between LSU/Bayou Fountain and O’Neal Lane. Nearly all of Baton Rouge’s most affluent neighborhoods are in this district.
RED/BLUE RATING (using 2008, 2012, and 2014 elections): 67% Republican
JMCEL’s SUMMARY: In The Last Hayride, the late John Maginnis once described Baton Rouge as “…three separate and isolated worlds: the newcomer professionals and old families of South Baton Rouge and LSU; the rednecks and union workers of North Baton Rouge; and the blacks.”
The “isolated world” of South Baton Rouge has a fairly easily defined geographic boundary: just about everything south of Florida Boulevard and east of the LSU campus. And most of this territory is contained within Senate District 16. The overall tone of this district is white collar and relatively affluent, as most of Baton Rouge’s most expensive neighborhoods are within the district lines. This is a district that politically was the Republican bulwark of the entire state, although racial changes in many south Baton Rouge neighborhoods, combined with a growing white liberal population in neighborhoods closer to LSU has somewhat moderated the district’s politics relative to other Republican districts around the state – 17 out of 39 state senate districts gave Barack Obama a lower percentage in 2012, and 15 out of 39 state senate districts gave district resident (and former state senator) Bill Cassidy a higher percentage.
Still, Senate District 16 can be counted on to vote Republican up and down the ballot, and in fact, this district has had Republican Senate representation since the mid 1980s, when former senator Ken Osterberger switched parties. He was rewarded handsomely with an 81% re-election against a Democrat in 1987, which, incidentally, was the last time a Democrat contested this state senate seat.
When Osterberger retired in 1991, there was a spirited race to succeed him, and the runoff victor (with 52% of the district) was the same Jay Dardenne who had run in 1987 in an adjacent district that was eliminated during the 1991 reapportionment and relocated to north Baton Rouge/the Florida Parishes. Sen. Dardenne represented the disrict with very little opposition from 1992 to 2006, when he was elected Secretary of State in a special election (he currently is the Lt.Governor).
In the open seat race to succeed Dardenne in 2006, Dr. Bill Cassidy (who had just converted to the Republican party) defeated a term limited Republican state representative 58-38% in the primary, but only stayed for two years, as there was an open Congressional seat in 2008. Though Democrat Don Cazayoux upset Republican “Woody” Jenkins 49-46% in the May 2008 special election, Dr. Cassidy defeated Cazayoux 48-40% in the regular election that fall (Cassidy was elected to the US Senate in 2014).
Dr. Cassidy’s election to Congress created another vacancy, and a special election was held in 2009, and was illustrative as to what type of Republican district voters perfer. In that special election, attorney Dan Claitor faced two Republicans (one was considered a moderate, the other had religious conservative support), and defeated the religious conservative 66-34% in the runoff. Senator Claitor was unopposed in 2011, and sought an open Congressional seat in 2014.
The 2011 reapportionment made the district more moderate (or, more to the point, less staunchly Republican) by removing more heavily conservative precincts in the southeastern part of the parish, while several precincts in and around the Garden District and Midcity were added to the district. Senator Claitor is allowed to seek one more term, and is likely in good shape for re-election.