Jindal Crafty On Congressional, Legislative Redistricting

The Times-Picayune has a piece today on Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s strategy for re-drawing the state’s Congressional districts now that the Census indicated we’re going to lose a seat.

Namely, Jindal is getting out of the way.

The governor said he’s not going to micromanage the process.

“We’ve asked the congressional delegation to come up with its own plan,” Jindal said during a meeting at The Times-Picayune on Wednesday. “We’ll let the Legislature handle (the legislative map).”

Of course, the state’s congressional delegation consists of six Republicans, most of them hard-core conservatives, and a Democrat. As a Republican Jindal can’t really go wrong letting the delegation come up with a plan.

What’s likely to happen, though, is a major fight between the two Congressmen from south central/southwestern Louisiana, Jeff landry and Charles Boustany, and the two from the northern part of the state, John Fleming and Rodney Alexander. Because Democrat Cedric Richmond’s 2nd District seat is safe, not just because of the Voting Rights Act but also because none of the adjacent Republicans are interested in absorbing a bunch of hard-core Democrat voters into their districts. And while its possible the boundaries of Steve Scalise’s 1st District and Bill Cassidy’s 6th District might be adjusted somewhat, nobody will want to fundamentally change either given that suburban New Orleans/the Northshore and the Baton Rouge area are obvious districts to draw.

That means either Fleming and Alexander will have to be thrown together, or Landry and Boustany will.

There is a proposal, reportedly supported by Landry, to create a coastal district stretching from St. Bernard and Plaquemines Parishes in the east to Cameron Parish in the West, encompassing Houma and Thibodaux but coming in below Lafayette and Lake Charles. One would figure that you’d then have a district north of the coastal district which would pick up Lafayette, Lake Charles and Alexandria, and then you’d have an “I-20 District” north of that.

Which throws Alexander and Fleming together.

Another way to draw the districts, put forth by the Louisiana Family Forum, would be to split St. Bernard and Plaquemines off into Richmond’s district, put the eastern part of Ascension Parish into Cassidy’s district while lower Jefferson and the River Parishes, plus Lafourche, Terrebonne and Assumption, would go into Richmond’s 2nd District. The rest of Landry’s current 3rd District would go into Boustany’s district; in doing so forcing a huge electoral showdown between the two in 2012. Richmond would maintain a majority-minority district should that happen, but that district would be GREATLY diluted and he’d undoubtedly face a credible Republican challenger in 2012.

The chairs of the committee overseeing redistricting are both from the I-20 corridor – Democrat Rick Gallot of Ruston and Republican Bob Kostelka of Monroe. It’s not known whether the legislators will get heavily involved in the congressional fight, or whether Cassidy, Scalise and Richmond will intervene.

Either way, Jindal getting involved in that donnybrook will only make him an enemy in a part of the state (North Louisiana or the Acadiana area) where he’s not as strong as he is in the southeast Louisiana population centers. He’s smart enough to know it’s not worth it for him to jump in other than as a referee. He can’t even really do his party any good; regardless of how the congressional districts will be redrawn there will be five Republicans and one Democrat when the music stops.

And when it comes to the state legislature, Jindal knows that a majority can be found combining Republicans and black Democrats to create districts largely safe for both at the expense of white Democrat legislators – who are fleeing to the GOP in droves anyway. The real question will become how to redraw the districts in and around New Orleans, given the demographic shifts brought on by Katrina.

The Louisiana Family Forum has teamed up with Democrat senator Elbert Guillory (D-Opelousas) to re-draw state Senate districts. The resulting plan would merge two New Orleans districts, create new districts in East Baton Rouge and Tangipahoa, split up the 17th District currently held by Rob Marionneaux (who’s term-limited) and create two new majority-minority districts in the River Parishes and Acadiana, among other moves.

Jindal can’t get much traction for himself either way, so he’s staying out of it. While it might have been a bad move for him not to make endorsements in last year’s election cycle, this is a case where, for Jindal, the less he says the better it is for the Governor.

The Legislature will open a special session to deal with redistricting issues on March 20.



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