This year so far, three special election runoffs have occurred in House of Representatives districts. Republicans had hoped, in net, to gain a House seat as a result of special elections kicked off last month. Contests predictable in their partisan outcomes settled then, with two of the three resolved this past weekend having implications for the chamber’s partisan balance.
One seemed a forgone conclusion, in District 18 where Democrat Jeremy Lacombe had far outpaced Republican Tammi Fabre and the remainder split mostly among Democrats. With 22 percent having gone to a black candidate and Lacombe having pulled 45 percent in the general election, that Fabre in the runoff ended up eating a little into the votes of candidates who finished off the pace provided only slight comfort to the GOP, with Lacombe winning decisively in a district that Republicans won handily in the past two statewide elections of candidates for federal office.
But in neighboring District 62, Republicans expected to retain that seat. Police juror Dennis Aucoin polled 45 percent in the general election, although only he ran as a Republican. Businessman and independent Roy Daryl Adams ran second at 30 percent, with Democrats having fractured their vote among three candidates. This meant Adams ran surprisingly strong, with his total more than all the other Democrats’.
It would have seemed likely that Aucoin could detach a few Democrat votes to go over the top in the runoff. Instead, in relative terms he barely did so, adding just a point to his percentage, making Adams the representative-elect.
Most interestingly, through two weeks after the general election, Adams spent essentially only his money, and not a whole lot for this kind of office. Nor has he appeared ever to donate money to any political candidate in the past decade. This bootstrapping campaign gives no clues as to which political viewpoints he favors.
However, his campaign website gives some limited information about his policy preferences. He discusses how he feels budget cuts have harmed the district – which has the state’s mental health hospital and a prison in its environs – and how this needs to change. That doesn’t bode well for those Republicans who champion right-sized, limited government, and as such means his election qualifies as reversal of GOP fortunes and a defeat for conservatives (even as the previous seat holder, parish Pres. Kenny Havard, often betrayed fiscal conservatism).
Still, it may be speculative to extrapolate these results for their statewide implications. Turnout dynamics will change for a regular election and both of these districts lay within the populist cockpit of the state. As populism continues to recede statewide among white voters, this southeastern corner of the state, spawning Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, has proven the most resistant to political modernity and stubbornly clings to sending Democrats to Baton Rouge.
Regardless, if Republicans want to attain supermajorities in the Legislature, they have to win these kinds of seats. These results discourage belief in reaching that goal.