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Interim statewide race results bode ill for Democrats

Having all of the amendments to the Louisiana Constitution pass (with more on the way) was interesting. That two Republicans almost made the Louisiana Secretary of State’s general election runoff was telling. But fascinating was the fact that, with just a Libertarian to kick around, the Insurance Commissioner race just missed going to a runoff.

Even as the campaigns tried to spin matters away from the fact, simply it was the relentless negative campaigning, with both current Commissioner Jim Donelon and state Sen. James David Cain slinging mud at each others’ ethics, which caused about 11 percent of the vote to go the way of S.B. Zaitoon. Negative campaigning is great to detach a voter from a candidate, but if the camp doing it is to benefit, they must make sure enough of those defecting votes find their way to its candidate.

Instead, neither Donelon nor Cain gave voters much reason to vote for each, and so the beneficiary was Zaitoon. Eleven percent won’t get you to a runoff – but it was enough of a protest vote over the lack of either Donelon or Cain expressing reasons why they could do a good job. And, along with results from the other statewide elective contest, hints at what is to come in 2007.

The close finish among Secretary of State leader Republican Jay Dardenne, ahead of Democrat state Sen. Francis Heitmeier, leaving out of the runoff but not by much Republican businessman Mike Francis, in the long term may be more significant. This result especially bodes ill for the Democrats in next year’s elections. The fact that a white New Orleans-area Democrat barely got into the runoff shows the party has been weakened by demographic trends accelerated by the citizen displacement caused by the Katrina hurricane disaster.

Both Zaitoon’s and Francis’ performance, along with other minor candidates in the Secretary of State’s race which swept up with Francis 42 percent of the vote, shows that incumbents may have a pretty rocky time – and they disproportionately are Democrats, both statewide and in legislative districts.

With Dardenne likely to get most of Francis’ votes, the GOP will rack up two wins here in November, potentially ushering in a strong party performance in 2007.

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