Jonathan Perry’s win over Nathan Granger in Saturday’s 26th District Senate race marked a huge milestone in Louisiana politics. With Perry moving ahead to the state Senate, Republicans now have 20 of the 39 seats in that body – a number which would have been considered impossible just a few years ago. In fact, at the end of the last election cycle only 16 of the 39 seats were held by GOP senators; to flip four seats without even crossing a statewide election cycle is almost unheard of.
And Perry’s win was improbable in its own right. The 26th District hasn’t been a Republican seat in modern history, and four years ago its previous holder Nick Gautreaux didn’t even draw a GOP challenger. In addition, Perry faced a huge obstacle in Granger, who had a $310,000 campaign war chest that was almost double what the Republican had available. Granger covered the district with billboards, filled up the radio and TV airwaves and ran the kind of campaign which typically has produced victory in the past.
So a 52-48 victory was an impressive achievement for Perry. Even more so considering that he didn’t have Gov. Bobby Jindal – who directly benefits from a Republican Senate majority Perry’s election gives to him – stumping for him in the district.
Jindal’s absence wasn’t conspicuous. Last year when he refused to endorse Jay Dardenne over Democrat Caroline Fayard in the Lieutenant Governor special election runoff, or Sen. David Vitter over Democrat Charlie Melancon, or Jeff Landry over Democrat Ravi Sangisetty, there was a significant hue and cry. Now, nobody seems to expect Jindal’s support – even though Perry’s candidacy should have been able to count on it and even though Jindal’s agenda benefits, as mentioned above, from his party taking over a Senate majority.
So how did Perry win?
For two reasons, it seems. First, he had enormous volunteer support from conservatives all over the state. Perry’s volunteers made 30,000 phone calls and knocked on 8,000 doors in a campaign which produced just under 20,000 votes on Saturday.
And second, while Jindal wasn’t of much help, Vitter was.
Vitter’s Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority pumped in a good bit of needed support to Perry’s campaigns. LCRM sent out no less than seven mail pieces in a six-week long campaign, a couple of which contained a personal endorsement from Vitter. A robocall in the district with Vitter’s voice exhorting voters to turn out for Perry also made it to phones there last week.
LCRM is rapidly becoming a major player in Louisiana politics and a driver of the state’s political makeup. It came on the scene in 2007 with over a million dollars in support of conservative candidates, which naturally brought on howls from those on the Left. That year Republicans managed to win 50 seats in the House and 15 (later 16 after Robert Adley switched from Democrat to Republican) in the Senate, both numbers dramatically higher than in previous cycles.
In the past year, LCRM has become more and more active in state legislative races, with some $37,000 in expenditures alone in the past two months in Perry’s race and the Senate District 22 race before it won by Fred Mills (the District 22 expenditures were made to stop independent David Groner, who was challenging a pair of Republicans). And with a growing track record of success behind it, LCRM may be cementing itself – rather than Jindal – as the power base for Republicans in Louisiana.
CORRECTION: The contact figures above – 8,000 doors knocked on and 30,000 phone calls – probably aren’t correct. Those figures actually came from a release by the Louisiana Republican Party, and they represent the party’s figures. Perry’s campaign had an operation in its own right, so it’s entirely possible the real number of total door-knockings and calls is considerably higher.
Let’s be clear, though – 8,000 and 30,000 all by themselves for a state senate race is a colossal effort, and one which indicates both the level of importance the state’s grass-roots conservatives have at present and the emphasis Louisiana conservatives put into winning District 26 from the Democrats.