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More GOP, fewer white Democrat officeholders coming

As noted previously, the new Act 560 which creates closed primaries for federal office in Louisiana will create more Republican registrations, fewer Democrats, and give “no party” (independent) registrants the option of voting in either party’s primaries for the U.S. House or Senate. How will this impact the specific parties, candidates, and present officeholders? If we divide the state’s electorate into three groups that comprise the bulk of the electorate, Republicans, white Democrats, and black Democrats, white Democrats lose to the other two groups, for different reasons.

By going to the closed primary system, black Democrats have become more likely to go farther in the electoral process. Recall that at present statewide whites make up only 54 percent of Democrat registrations, probably of which half routinely vote Republican in federal elections. This means among Democrats likely to vote in a party primary, blacks will outnumber whites substantially statewide. This also entails that, unless there is a large surplus of white independents relative to black independents that choose to participate in the Democrat (as opposed to the same-day Republican) primary, black candidates will win these nominations given very low proportion of black crossover votes to white candidates where there are viable white and black candidates in a contest (which is lower that rate of white crossover to black candidates).

In contrast, Republicans win out because their black opponents are likely to be more liberal than potential white opponents, and also because of crossover voting realities making these nominees less electable. Therefore, Republicans become more likely to win federal elections generally. To be more specific, regarding the present seven districts and the state:

  • At present, by using a simple formula of Republicans get all the Republican vote plus half of the remaining white Democrat vote and white Democrats get the other half plus all the black vote while “other” votes run slightly Democrat, every district in the state except the Second (mostly New Orleans) is competitive for a white Democrat against a Republican under the blanket primary system. But a black Democrat is not because of the loss of white support.
  • Using a simple formula that in a closed Democrat primary that a white candidate would get half of the white Democrat votes (the other because they really want to participate in the GOP primary or half sitting it out, worse for white candidates, because they want the GOP primary winner to win, they vote for a black candidate in the Democrat primary) and a black candidate all black votes, blacks will be favored to win nominations in the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Districts, while the Third and Seventh will be close. Only in the First will a white be clearly able to win the nomination – and that district has the largest proportion of Republicans in the state, blatantly favoring a GOP candidate.
  • In effect, this means that, within a few years (as Republican numbers swell while white Democrat registration figures fall) under current districting, unless black politicians statewide deliberately give up all hope of being elected to the U.S. House, Louisiana reliably will send six Republicans and one black Democrat to the House. U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon probably is the last of his kind – if he isn’t knocked off later this year by a Republican, he may well be knocked out of a primary in 2008.
  • The same may go for U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. She is likely to survive a closed primary because of incumbency and past extensive black support that would keep too many black votes from slipping away. But using the same formula against any other white Democrat, a black candidate would be the Democrats senatorial nominee. This means U.S. Sen. David Vitter can rest more easily, and once Landrieu is gone, both seats are likely to remain in Republican hands on a consistent basis.

    Some observers may have wondered by a coalition of Republicans and black Democrats supported the bill that produced this change. The answer should be obvious by a review of these facts and data: black Democrats become more powerful in the party by their ability to get more nominations for federal office, while Republicans become more likely to win these offices. The biggest mystery is why Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a white Democrat, signed the bill. But there’s no mystery that, as a result, white Democrat federal officeholders will become nearly extinct, and Republicans candidates will benefit the most.
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