The historic nature of the outcome of the Louisiana Senate District 26 special election is not so much in that it gives the Republican Party a majority in both chambers of the Legislature in 135 years, but that it suggests that Democrats may have become a permanent minority in the state.
Republican State Rep. Jonathan Perry defeated Democrat Vermillion Police Juror Nathan Granger in this contest triggered by the resignation of the former holder of the seat, Democrat Nick Gautreaux. Despite the fact Granger poured a considerable sum of money into the race (having spent 10 days out from the election over $172,000, and had lent himself $217,000), had national Democrat operatives assisting him, and ran about as far to the right ideologically as a Democrat can in this day and age, it was not enough to hold it for the party.
Perry has voted as one of the most reform/conservative members of the House (possessing a Louisiana Legislature Log reform/ideology index score for the past three years of close to 80), so, in other words, if there was any seat with demographics mirrored those seen at the state level that the Democrats could win short of a Republican opponent tarnished by scandal, this was the one. That they could not speaks volumes. Candidates that sound conservative themes with plenty of money to finance themselves in a district that never had elected a Republican where over half of registered voters are Democrats and almost a quarter are black don’t fall off of trees often, and being unable to win that one tells us the serious problem facing state Democrats in this upcoming election year and going forward.
With this, Republicans capture control of the Senate. At the end of the 2007 elections they had slipped a notch from 2003 and controlled only 15 Senate seats. With this legislative term not even complete, they have picked up five seats since. Gamblers would have become wealthy men by betting in November, 2007 that Republican would capture the chamber majority before scheduled elections by turning over 13 percent of the body just by special elections and party switches (just as they might have done the same betting on every statewide office being held by the GOP when Republicans held none of them just a little over five years ago).
It’s just part of a larger trend in favor of the GOP that only has accelerated since the two year run of Democrat control of the federal government recently ended, as Democrats have poisoned their label to a majority of white Louisianans through support of a national party that thinks no problem in too small to have government intervene and no part of a person’s life shouldn’t be regulated. As of the end of the year, in the state more whites were registered Republicans than Democrats, and by the time of the regular fall state elections, a plurality of Democrats in Louisiana will be black. It’s a quick ticket to being the permanent minority party when the minority is the majority in it.
And it may get worse than just the demographics suggest. Republicans now control Louisiana state government in totality as well as the redistricting process which might allow them to pick up a couple or so seats in the House and Senate through creative reapportionment. It’s now not unreasonable, although still less likely than more, to think the GOP might pick up a veto-proof 70 House and 26 Senate seats after the 2011 elections. Before what actually transpired, had I typed that last sentence 39 months ago, the few unsettled individuals that think I’m crazy may have had a case. Now it’s a sign of sanity to think that.
As it is, the history made tonight might end up conceptualized as a precursor wave and considered relatively unimportant compared to the potential electoral tsunami staring down Democrats in Louisiana over the next few years.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 22:05