(UPDATED) I Guess This Is Our New Congressional Map…
This is the map that four of the state’s congressmen – Alexander, Cassidy, Boustany and Fleming – signed off on today. With those four on board, it’s likely the bill establishing that map will pass. It didn’t hurt that Gov. Bobby Jindal endorsed it as well.
This map is the one that state Sen. Bob Kostelka, chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, is pushing. It’s SB2 on the 2011 Extraordinary Session list.
It gives Louisiana five basically sure-fire Republican districts against one sure-fire Democrat district, the 2nd, which is 62 percent black.
From a partisan perspective, it’s great. From an incumbent-protection perspective, it’s even better.
I still think it sucks.
It sucks, because it splits up the Baton Rouge area. Rodney Alexander is now representing people in New Roads and Cedric Richmond has a district that runs from New Orleans East all the way up into Scotlandville.
Incidentally, I had to check the precinct list because I was within a whisker of ending up in Richmond’s district. Had that come to pass (I’m assuming it won’t, which is perhaps premature since while this looks like the map they haven’t taken a vote yet), our readers would have been subjected to 10 years of colorful and passionate invective against every elected official in Louisiana history on this site. Pretty much every day.
That’s neither here nor there. The Baton Rouge area is the most strategically important metro area in Louisiana right now. It’s the most populous, has the best opportunity for growth and the best economy. Baton Rouge needs a strong voice in Congress, which it has in Bill Cassidy at present. And while Cassidy is a very reliable and conservative Republican, he’s also a doctor who for 20 years has served the city’s black community as a physician at Earl K. Long. He might not vote the way many of his African-American constituents might like, but he does represent them.
Trading out a chunk of East Baton Rouge Parish so that Richmond – who has spent some time in East Baton Rouge, though isn’t exactly the most well-regarded pol in town – can get his district to 62 percent black rather than 55 or 58 percent, flat-out stinks. I’ve asked, and I’ve looked, and I’ve yet to find a requirement which says that a majority-minority district has to have 62 percent of its constituents be black instead of 55 percent. Richmond could win re-election against a white guy next year with 55 percent instead of 62 percent and he’d still get to go back to Congress and make speeches about how we’ve let companies give stuff back to their shareholders for too long or spout the Muslim Brotherhood talking points on jihadist indoctrination in our midst for two more years. He could even do it without a law license, should the state supreme court decide he’s done something else to lose it again. But an unresolved question, based on the research I’ve been able to do, is whether Richmond’s new district will include Uncle Earl’s, the saloon where he got himself arrested for rumbling with patrons after getting his butt kicked in pool in 2007.
This guy has zero business representing Baton Rouge. I’d say he has zero business representing New Orleans either, but that’s a mistake New Orleans has made on its own.
And I don’t have anything in particular against Alexander, but how do you represent Bastrop, New Roads and St. Martinville at the same time? That’s nuts.
But I also think this map sucks because it splits up Houma and Thibodaux despite a completely unanimous and very loud plea from the folks down there not to do so. Houma and Thibodaux make up a metropolitan area; one of the state’s bigger ones in fact. And they’re as culturally homogenous an area as you can get. But this map says Houma goes into the district that Boustany and Jeff Landry will slug it out for, while Thibodaux goes into Steve Scalise’s district.
That’s not to say that Boustany and Scalise can’t service those areas. Boustany has been handling the coastal areas from Cameron Parish to Lafayette, and he’s very good on oil. He could handle Houma. Landry certainly can as well. And Scalise is one of the two or three most able politicians in the state; they’ll love him in Thibodaux. They’ll love Scalise in St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes, too; those are also 3rd District parishes that would be moving into his district.
But this isn’t about those guys and whether they can do OK with those districts. Like I said Sunday night, incumbent protection is the worst motive for drawing congressional districts you can dig up. Ten years from now, none of the six guys we’re protecting with these districts, if in fact we’re actually protecting incumbents here (yeah, yeah – just bear with me here), might still be around. Cassidy could beat Mary Landrieu for a Senate seat in 2014, for example. Scalise could be elected governor in 2015. Landry could be Louisiana’s attorney general by then. Boustany could be Surgeon General in the Romney administration by January 2013. Richmond could be the guy running the Urban League, or under indictment. Who knows?
As an aside, the seven congressmen who were in office at the time redistricting was last done in Louisiana were David Vitter, Bill Jefferson, Billy Tauzin, Jim McCrery, John Cooksey, Richard Baker and Chris John. Notice how none of those guys are currently in the House of Representatives.
The point is, we shouldn’t be trying to protect congressmen with a district map; we should be trying to protect voters. If you really think that’s what this map does, God bless you.
I’ve said before, you can cut Louisiana seven ways and the result can work out fairly well. The current districts probably make more sense than any the state has ever had, and the folks who drew them 10 years ago are to be commended. But try to cut the state into six districts, and it’s a circus.
We’re seeing the effects of that now. Scotlandville and Gert Town are in the same district, as are Breaux Bridge and Delhi. But Chauvin and Golden Meadow are in different districts. Makes lots of sense. If you’re an incumbent, that is.
UPDATE: It turns out that the reports Gov. Jindal had signed on to the Kostelka plan are in dispute. Rep. Jeff Landry, who is the odd man out of this plan, just put out a release saying he talked to Jindal last night and the Governor hasn’t made the decision to back Kostelka after all…
“The Governor and I spoke and he assured me that he is not endorsing the Kostelka redistricting plan,” said Jeff Landry.
The Kostelka plan has raised serious questions, most importantly the splitting of Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes. Local leaders from Terrebonne and Lafourche have spoken out strongly in favor of keeping the Parishes together. In addition, the two Parishes had the largest number of concerned citizens at their regional redistricting hearings than in any other location in the state.
Governor Jindal has stated he prefers two north Louisiana districts. The Kostelka plan does this – but also splits Terrebonne and Lafourche.
“The Governor also understands the concerns of the local people who do not want Terrebonne and Lafourche split. It is a concern I share and something I pledged to oppose during my campaign last year,” said Congressman Landry.
UPDATE #2: And the Houma Courier now has an article up with a quote from Jindal spokesman Kyle Plotkin that confirms what Landry says…
Asked if the statements are accurate, Kyle Plotkin, Jindal’s press secretary, supplied a two-sentence response: “We’re not opposed to keeping Terrebonne and Lafourche together. The only thing we have committed to is to have two north Louisiana districts that run north-south.”