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Cao win puts another nail into Melancon's House coffin

Besides the obvious fact that the biggest loser of Anh “Joseph” Cao’s upset win over Rep. Bill Jefferson was the incumbent himself, next in line is the neighbor to the south, Rep. Charlie Melancon, and Louisiana Democrats as a whole.

A Democrat as is Jefferson, he is the most endangered species in the Louisiana House delegation since every single member other member now is a Republican. The giddy dreams some state party officials must have had now have turned nightmarish; the party had hoped to wiggle out of this election cycle with another Democrat to succeed Jefferson on the Second District, Paul Carmouche to pick up the open seat in the Fourth, and Rep. Don Cazayoux to retain the seat he has won by special election only months early, to give the delegation a majority in the state. Instead, despite all being at least even-money possibilities, all three wishes came up craps.

In the short run, the surviving Melancon (unopposed for reelection) really gains nothing more than he already had. Even had Jefferson won, the indictments hanging over his head would had rendered him largely ineffective as a powerbroker, so Melancon among the state’s House members, being of the same party as the current Congressional majority and incoming president (plus now among the most senior even just starting his third term), would still have been the most influential. But in the long run, the Cao upset along with these other GOP victories makes Melancon’s deteriorating position even worse.

With Louisiana very likely losing a House seat due to reapportionment in 2012, Melancon’s seat remains the most threatened. Three interests will jockey over this process, and two of them have a community of interest that will drive it. Republicans will want to create conditions that will ensure at least five of the six seats remain in their hands, while black Democrats will want a secure seat for themselves.

This cuts out white Democrats entirely, and the other two forces have the muscle to put this through the state legislature. Republicans already effectively control the House and while Democrats control the Senate, black legislators among them will defect on this issue. And of course Gov. Bobby Jindal whose approval is necessary on any plan and could only be bypassed with an impossible supermajority is a Republican.

The idea all along has been to carve up Melancon’s Third District and shifting other districts at the margins. This would allow the Second District to take in majority black areas of the Third and reach into the Sixth and First to do the same to reinforce its current black majority – necessary not only because of general population loss, but as a result of the hurricane disasters of 2005. These with the Seventh then can swallow up the Third.

Just in case black Democrats hesitate, Jindal and his allies can offer them a deal they can’t refuse. With depopulation costing New Orleans as many as five legislative seats, Republicans can offer to save most of these black legislators’ seats in exchange for dismantling the Third. Those affected incumbents will throw Melancon overboard faster than the Silver Zipper can charm a female ex-reporter.

But with the election of Cao, they may not need such inducements. The special circumstances of this contest are not likely to repeat, but they still demonstrate that the seat is not as safe as they might like for a black. Any thoughts they may have harbored about trying to eliminate a Republican seat against the odds to save Melancon’s surely are reduced now.

As 2010 approached, had a black Democrat been ensconced in the Second and Cazayoux or Carmouche or both in office, there would have been less concern about shoring up the majority black status of the Second and perhaps the Sixth or Fourth (likely the latter) would have been more vulnerable for elimination. But the 2008 cycle produced the worst possible outcome for Melancon, meaning this could be his last term. Seeing the handwriting on the wall, in 2010 he may take a chance opposing a slightly vulnerable Sen. David Vitter as the only opportunity to extend his political career past 2012.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Surely Mr. Sadow you will not profess to be a fiscal conservative and fail to comment on the decision revealed today in the Advocate that Jindal and Moret will be spending $635 thousand on a study concerning the proper way to subsidize an auto plant.

Surely you will see it as your duty as an outspoken supporter of the constantly campaigning for the next office Governor to question this insanity???