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Landry win sets up political and redistricting intrigue

One of the more impressive open seat wins in the country came courtesy of Republican Rep.-elect Jeff Landry, capturing the Third House District of Louisiana previously held by defeated Senate candidate Democrat Charlie Melancon. Problematically for the state GOP, it also probably will be his last win there – but a win which may affect profoundly the state’s congressional redistricting.

The district appears to be the most likely casualty of upcoming redistricting, which kicks off next year, as in about a month results of the 2010 census almost certainly will show that Louisiana will lose a House seat. If so, the very election results that will send Landry to Washington reinforce the likelihood of him having a short stay.

As previously noted, if a district has to go, dynamics point to this one. Except for the Second which will swap a Democrat for a Republican, GOP members represent all others and got reelected. Even if they don’t have much seniority (from the Fifth, Rep. Rodney Alexander has the most starting his fifth term), they have some and especially now with Republicans becoming the House majority courtesy of about six dozen new GOP members getting elected, that seniority gets magnified as a resource. Thus, Republicans would loath to do a remapping that throws two of the reelected Republicans into a district.

And Republicans largely will control the process in Louisiana. With a Republican governor and effective GOP control of the House of Representatives, only their Senate minority would stand in the way. But this should not be a problem given another dynamic of the process, the desire to keep a majority-black Second. Constitutionally, it would be impossible not to have one such district in a state where black population will be almost 30 percent and has a concentration in New Orleans. Black legislators will seek to bulk up this district as much as possible with black voters to forestall any chance of a repeat of the unusual circumstances that put outgoing Rep. Anh “Joseph” Cao into that seat the past two years. This most reasonably, on the criteria of compactness and contiguity, can be accomplished only by dismantling the Third. New Orleans-area black senators will cooperate with Republicans on this.

So this leaves Landry out in the cold. Assuming he keeps New Iberia as his residence, he likely would find his residence under redistricting in the (for now named) Seventh District of the only member of the state delegation who did not face any opponent for reelection, Rep. Charles Boustany. It’s not a contest that he would like, would draw much Republican support for, or he could win, and the same would be true regardless of which incumbent’s district in which his residence would be placed. Obviously the only non-Republican he could run against would be in the Second, but there is no geographical way to get his residence into it through any Constitutional kind of redistricting. And why do so, anyway: even if he moved to the very northeastern portion of it and hoped to get redistricted into the new Second, he still would have practically no chance of winning that presumably majority black district.

What to do, then, with a promising political career? He could step back to state legislative office, but elections for them will already have occurred and he would have to cool his heels for three years for a chance at that. But another alternative exists where he immediately could retain federal office, or at the most wait two years.

Landry could try to groom himself for taking on the Senate seat currently held by Democrat Mary Landrieu in 2014. This may not be the best alternative not so much because he’ll have had so little elective office experience and have sat out two years (although that gives him plenty of time to campaign) but because probably at least one much more experienced Republican in statewide office may wish to go for the office. Incoming Lieutenant Gov. Jay Dardenne has talked of it, but with his new job he now may be aiming more towards the Governor’s Mansion after an expected Gov. Bobby Jindal second term expiration or early departure. Treasurer John Kennedy has run unsuccessfully twice for it, so he may also have shifted his focus to the Capitol’s fourth floor offices. Drawing guys like these as an opponent will make for an uphill battle for Landry.

But Landry’s best options for continuing in a federal office might be if Boustany, or the representative in the other district likely to swallow up the northwestern part of the Third, the Sixth’s Rep. Bill Cassidy, decides to go for the Senate in 2014. Redistricting could be done, and maybe a Landry residential change if needed, so that he would end up in the district of whichever one (maybe both) wants to vie for the seat. Then Landry could try for a lateral move, although no doubt other politicians with potentially better starting bases in the new district would present a challenge.

Thus, it’ll be interesting to see how redistricting gets shaped around the political ambitions of a few Republican congressmen. Unless the GOP feels like wasting their new asset and Landry accepts an abbreviated House career, some interesting machinations may be on the way.

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