The Effect of Term Limits on the 2011 Legislative Elections

Historically, the Democrats had strong majorities in both houses of the Louisiana Legislature. That began to change starting in 1995. At that time, the GOP tidal wave of 1994, which was part of a larger anti-Clinton tidal wave across the South, finally reached Louisiana. That tidal wave was further augmented by a FBI gambling probe at the end of the fourth Edwards administration that helped knock off several veteran Senate Democrats. This result of this tidal wave was that Republicans began to have a numerical presence in both houses of the Legislature, but when term limits (overwhelmingly supported by Louisiana votes in 1995) kicked in starting with the 2007 elections, the GOP ended up with 50 (out of 105) House members and 16 (out of 39) Senators.

 Since term limits will kick in again for those elected in 1999, can the GOP reap the same benefits in 2011 as they did in 2007? Though there will undoubtedly be some benefit, the benefits from term limits won’t be as great for the Republicans in 2011 for the following reasons (term limited legislators are here):

 (1)    Not as many legislators are subject to term limits – this time, 13 House members are term limited, while only 6 Senators are subject to term limits in 2011. And with next year’s elections looming closer, expect to see those legislators seek other offices before their terms expire. The upcoming Lieutenant Governor’s race will obviously be looked at by several of the term limiteds. And if Secretary of State Jay Dardenne were to win that race, his vacated office would surely attract some of the term limiteds as well;

(2)    In the Senate, only three of the term limited state senate seats would be in play by either party based on their performance in 2007 and 2008 elections. While on paper the GOP would have a fighting chance, a lot depends on the individuals who qualify;

(3)    Similarly, in the House, there appear to be three seats which would be true tossups and, like the Senate, are districts that don’t have strong partisan leanings, so the quality of the individual candidate would be crucial.

Of course, reapportionment will also occur before next fall’s elections, so the individuals who are term limited are more likely than not to have their districts carved up and/or radically reconfigured before next year’s elections.

So while there are several pickup opportunities for the GOP in 2011 based on the particular legislators who are term limited, those opportunities won’t be as numerous as they were in 2007. However, in 2015, there will be 33 legislators (22 in the House and 11 in the Senate) whose seats will be term limited.

John is a political consultant and blogger with JMC Enterprises with expertise in poll sample development and analysis, development of targeted voter files for phone canvassing or mail outs, campaign strategy and demographic consulting, among other things. See his site at WinWithJMC.com for more information.

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