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So what are the largest implications of the Oct. 23 Louisiana election results?
Sen. David Vitter misfires. Vitter backed candidates in the two competitive statewide contests, Plaquemines Parish Pres. Billy Nungesser for lieutenant governor and House Speaker Jim Tucker for Secretary of State. Neither won.
Gov. Bobby Jindal wins in more ways than one.
Not only did he become the only Louisiana governor in the blanket primary era to win two consecutive terms without going to a runoff, but he collected the highest winning percentage of this era and largest margin of victory. When you outdistance your nearest competitor by nearly 50 percentage points, that’s a mandate, even if total vote came in not much over a million, down about 275,000 from 2007.
Yet he also scored in an area where he had difficulty in the past, successful endorsements. He made the right call in not endorsing for lieutenant governor and secretary of state, but for other things, he mostly came up trumps. For the Legislature, counting only contested races, of his 38 endorsees 24 went on to win, 8 made it to the runoff (where most will be favored), and only 6 tasted defeat. In open-seat races where he endorsed, all of his endorsees finished with the most votes with four winning outright. For the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, he hit two of five with two pending and favored.
About those BESE contests,“R” means “Republican,” not “reformer.” The BESE contests showed the power of the Republican label. Incumbent Democrat Keith Guice was easily defeated by Republican Jay Guillot and former Democrat, recently-turned Republican incumbent Dale Bayard was crushed by Republican Holly Boffy. While incumbent Republican Chas Roemer did not win outright, at around 44 percent and 16 percent better than his Democrat opponent, enough of the votes for the vanquished other Republican in the field, who almost got into the runoff, should come his way in the runoff. The Republican label also seemed to help Lottie Polozola Beebe upset incumbent Glenny Lee Buquet, running again as a Democrat.
That last result prevented the evening from being the perfect outcome for reformers, as Buquet had proved her reform mettle while Beebe campaigned as an establishment figure. But everywhere else, reformers triumphed. Republican James Garvey retained his seat, Roemer is favored to do so, and Guillot and Boffy flipped theirs to reformers. Add three Jindal appointees and that makes seven, with a real chance to grow to nine because the two majority-black districts, whose officials always have resisted reform, got put into play without Republicans running. In the Second, reformer Kira Orange Jones led the field, with a real chance of winning the runoff over incumbent Louella Givens, and in Eighth, with no incumbent, reformer Carolyn Hill narrowly led a candidate sympathetic to the establishment into the runoff while the preferred establishment candidate got aced out.
Given that the one incumbent not challenged, Walter Lee, historically a supporter of the establishment but increasingly willing to go which way the wind blows as indicated by his recent party change to Republican, may give up resistance to reform being in such a minority, if things play out well for reformers, newcomer Beebe might be the only consistent vote for the establishment. Even if the unlikely event everything goes wrong, reformers have no worse than half the seats, and thus are practically assured that Jindal wins again in that the reform majority will appoint his choice, Recovery School District head John White, to be state superintendant currently being filled on an acting basis.
But “R” didn’t mean much in legislative contests. In the Senate, of three competitive contests featuring a Republican challenger against a Democrat incumbent for two and the third against a Democrat trying to come over from the House, none could win, thus assuring a final distribution of 24 Republicans and 15 Democrats or a gain of two for the GOP. In the House, the GOP about maintained, at 54 seats, but with nine intra-party ones going to a runoff and the GOP favored in at least half of these, 60 is not out of the question. Still, it seems GOP gains at best will be marginal, which would seem to show that the tide that recently had swept so strongly in the Republican direction perhaps has hit its apogee.
Posted by Jeff Sadow at 02:15