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Heitmeier withdrawal admits sobering Democrat picture

Facing a very uphill battle, Democrat state Sen. Francis Heitmeier withdrew from the Secretary of State general election. Despite what some thought, Heitmeier never had a chance after he barely made the runoff against two strong Republicans, with a particular danger signal being that he barely won the Democrat stronghold in the state, Orleans Parish, which is accustomed to giving Democrat candidates double or triple the votes of their nearest Republican competitors when only one major Democrat runs.

Heitmeier mentioned this hollowing of support in Orleans, and his acknowledgment presents a very sobering picture for Democrats statewide. The latest population estimates put the parish population at around 187,525; black population is estimated at 86,917, a reduction of 239,060 from the 2000 census while white population is around 82,048, down 53,908. At the end of the third quarter, 2000, 46.65 percent of blacks were registered Democrats, 34.22 percent of whites were Democrats, and 22.15 percent of whites were Republicans.

Computing the losses, assuming they are uniform across registration, and assuming absentee participation rates cancel any partisan advantage (all favorable assumptions for Democrats) this means that 129,969 Democrats and 11,941 Republicans have left New Orleans. Considering that about half of the white Democrats consistently voted Republican, the carnage to the Democrats is around 100,000 voters since 2000 in Orleans.

Taking the three other hard-hit parishes from the 2005 hurricane disasters into account, Jefferson, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines, will reduce this deficit some (about 14,000 in Jefferson, 6,800 in St. Bernard, and 700 in Plaquemines). This difference of 78,500 in 2003 would have put now U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal in the Governor’s Mansion (and no doubt have the state on the road to a faster, better recovery than its present occupant) and in 2002 would have meant Sen. Mary Landrieu would have been retired out of that body after just one term.

It also means that if Jindal, as widely expected, runs for governor in 2007 and if any strong Republican runs for Senate against Landrieu in 2008, we can expect both offices to be possessed by Republicans. Turning back to other 2007 statewide races, it would appear at least half the statewide offices will be held by the GOP, and it’s worth noting that Atty. Gen. Charles Foti won by fewer than 100,000 votes in 2003, while it’s possible that one strong challenger could seriously threaten Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu given he barely avoided a general election runoff in 2003. Even Agriculture Secretary Bob Odom could be threatened given his tumultuous tenure, despite his large 2003 win.

Heitmerier’s withdrawal shows the future of Louisiana increasingly appears to be Republicans’.

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