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Census data confirm coming GOP majority in Louisiana

While perhaps less accurate and precise than usual, U.S. Census Bureau data released today confirm educated guesswork concerning the political and social ramifications of the hurricane disasters of 2005 in Louisiana.

While actual electoral conflict has shown that Orleans Parish will remain a Democrat and black stronghold for the foreseeable future, the political map has changed on a statewide basis. As a whole, Louisiana is thought to have lost about 379,000 people by the early part of 2006 (by all anecdotal indications, that figure has drifted somewhat downwards since). However, the corresponding loss figure for the Orleans metropolitan area (Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, and St. Tammany Parishes) was about 467,000 – basically, the entire 2000 population of New Orleans.

Extrapolating from data from other sources, about 173,000 of that comes from outside Orleans, leaving New Orleans’ population at 159,000. It’s probably crept up over the 200,000 mark since, but these figures confirm that not only will the state lose a congressional seat for the 2012 election cycle, unless the city makes a relatively rapid population recovery, very likely it will be a seat uniquely identified with New Orleans.

The racial breakdown of figures is even more interesting. About 279,000 fewer blacks live in the metro area, comprising about 60 percent of the fled population. In 2000, in the metro area, 66.3 percent of all blacks lived in Orleans, meaning (assuming the post-disaster proportions are the same) New Orleans itself was short nearly 185,000 black citizens. Statewide, 226,000 fewer blacks remained, a reduction of over 17 percent. At typical registration figures, this translates into a loss of 67,000 votes for statewide Democrat candidates.

Assuming potentially that people of other races net out between Democrats and Republicans, it’s clear that the Democrat statewide advantage, eroding slowly but surely for decades, likely now is gone. Subtract this many Democrat votes and the state’s senior senator becomes Suzanne Terrell, its governor becomes Bobby Jindal, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu barely scrapes into office, and a number of other races become more competitive.

At the level of the Legislature, this suggests that New Orleans will lose half a dozen state House seats and a couple of Senate seats for the 2011 session. With almost all seats in the city now held by Democrats, expect both Senate seats to go Republican and most of the House seats likewise to wherever they get redistricted to. With term limits hitting the chambers in 2007, this makes it probable that Louisiana will join most of its southern brethren by having Republican majorities in its Legislature by then. Combined with the GOP becoming the majority party among executive office holders, these changes should have Democrats very, very worried.

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