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Gustav may alter LA 2nd District election dynamics

As this posting gets published, Hurricane Gustav is making landfall south of Houma, meaning high winds will come to its east and a drenching along a path to the northwest. Its track seems to indicate it will hit minimally populated, presumably evacuated areas. But wind and possible tornadoes also take their toll especially east in the Second Congressional District. How will this unfortunate scenario impact elections coming up in five days?

Its direct path appears to avoid any place with a primary election, required only for federal offices. But the 2nd District does have its high profile Democrat primary where embattled Rep. Bill Jefferson tries to hang onto office, which at this moment almost is totally devoid of people (or at least of registered voters). Realistically and optimistically, mandatory evacuation orders won’t be lifted until Tuesday, then people will start flowing back, and how many will have returned and have interest in getting to the polls on Saturday is another matter, especially if it turns out some cleanup is involved.

Had things turned out differently, this might be a moot point. Hitting the district more squarely and perhaps a couple of days later probably would have postponed the election, not only because of the general chaos but also as Baton Rouge likely would have borne more of the brunt and this would have made election administration there more difficult. As it is, it would appear an election can occur largely unimpeded.

As a result, certain candidates may be advantaged and disadvantaged. With West Bank levees perhaps the weakest and being the closest to the eye wall, the Jefferson Parish part of the district might see the most potential for damage that would distract from voting, to the presumed detriment of the single Jefferson Parish candidate in the contest parish Councilman Byron Lee. By contrast, with a New Orleans East district already largely depopulated, state Rep. Cedric Richmond will lose proportionally fewer voters from his base.

The only non-black candidate in the race, former media reporter Helena Moreno, might also accrue and electoral advantage as it is believed she will do best among white voters (Democrat and independents are allowed to vote in this primary). While they are in the minority in the district, if she corrals a large plurality of them while the black vote gets fragmented among all other candidates, this should push her into the runoff. Likely of better socio-economic status generally than black voters, these whites may be able to get onto their feet faster after all of this and be in a better position to get to the polls on Saturday.

Intriguingly, perhaps the biggest beneficiary of all this may be Jefferson. With his support the most geographically broad-based and perhaps least popular in Jefferson Parish (where he has trailed in every contested election compared to Orleans except once), his partisans’ lives (maybe excepting Moreno’s) as a whole may be the least affected by the storm and can get more easily to the polls. Former New Orleans councilor Troy Carter’s chances also may be affected less, given he has run before and may have a more solid campaign structure in place than other challengers.

However, it would be ironic if fate in the form of this hurricane twists the political dynamics in such a way that it assists the damaged candidacy of Jefferson, after he appears to have done so much on his own to remove himself from office.

1 comment:

Jeff Sadow said...

Gov. Bobby Jindal is concluding his press conference. Apparently, as far as the GNO area, there is cautious optimism. Some overtopping is occuring around the IC but no breaches. But he warned tidal surges might come within the next few hours.