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Elections in 2018 bring LA winners and losers

As always, elections bring winners and losers. Relative to struggles for power between different interests, who triumphed and who saw their political fortunes in retreat in Louisiana after this round?

School reform: For several years, those wishing to expand from monopolistic government schools have slowly expanded a majority in East Baton Rouge Parish, while the conflict has flip-flopped between sides in Jefferson Parish, with backers of unions and a more closed system most recently having prevailed.

Tuesday handed victories to reformers. In Baton Rouge, they extended their school board majorities with education administrator Tramelle Howard dumping Kenyetta Nelson-Smith from District 3 and education consultant Dadrius Lanus nearly avoided a runoff against Vereta Lee for District 62 but almost certainly will win the runoff.

If so, with reformers holding an 8-1 edge, the Board might engage more aggressively in these measures, especially in expanding the role of charter schools. Interestingly, this could take some of the wind out of the sails of the movement to form the city of St. George, as a rationale many hold for supporting that is that formation would make easier creating an independent school district around the desired new city.

In Jefferson, candidates wishing to open the system up took control with those incumbents winning reelection (with one forced to a runoff, but the likely winner there having led substantially in the general election), putting outsider business executive Clay Moise into a District 4 open seat over former educator Glenn Mayeaux that retained a reform vote, and in District 8 businessman Chad Nugent knocked off incumbent Marion “Coach” Bonura to turn a one-vote board deficit into a one-vote majority.

Ambitious politicians: Three members of the Louisiana Legislature came out winners. State Rep. Bob Hensgens won a vacated Senate seat, state Rep. Major Thibault will assume the new presidency of Pointe Coupee Parish, and state Rep. Kenny Havard will take the helm of West Feliciana Parish. Only Thibault faced term limits, while the other two took their free shot (not having to give up their current gigs) simply because it meant a more prestigious or full-time job.

But one ended up a loser. State Rep. Julie Stokes, the final campaign finance reports may show, may have spent the most money to finish fifth in the special election for treasurer. Having made a run for treasurer in another special election last year in which she had to exit for health reasons, clearly she has a taste for bigger things. This particularly gruesome defeat, probably as too many conservative voters distrusted her for her voting record on big-ticket tax items in the Legislature, almost certainly ends any larger ambitions for her for the foreseeable future.

Ideological purity: Republican Havard’s and Democrat Thibault’s exits remove two of the more heterodox members of their legislative parties, with (according to their Louisiana Legislature Log voting scores of the past three years) Havard typically voting less conservatively than Republicans and Thibault more conservatively than Democrats.

This continues a trend seen during the governorship of Democrat John Bel Edwards. Some Democrats, in areas becoming increasingly likely to elect Republicans and with Edwards getting little traction with his liberal agenda (other than tax increases) in the Republican-led chambers, have bailed out to more secure spots. By the same token, some Republicans, who early in Edwards’ term showed willingness to cooperate with his agenda and now perceive that as something to threaten their reelection chances and/or have become marginalized within the GOP, also have parachuted out to posts with longer-term futures.

In doing so, the legislative bodies increasingly have become more ideologically pure. Since leftists sit in the minority, they and Edwards weaken at the expense of conservative forces and their agenda.

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