SADOW: No Surprises In Last Night’s Elections – Or Their Consequences

With the couple of Louisiana regional elections turning out as anticipated, presumed political consequences are confirmed.

For the Third District of the U.S. House of Representatives, Rep. Charles Boustany won not uncomfortably over Rep. Jeff Landry in a contest pitting Republican incumbents because of redistricting. Boustany, given the new district contained more of his old one than it did of Landry’s old one, his several more years in office than the rookie Landry, and, related to that, larger war chest made him the favorite and he parlayed that to a win.

With records that made Landry only marginally more conservative than Boustany, Landry was in the position of trying to accentuate the differences between the two and to paint Boustany as more beholden to Washington special interests. If he could make it to the runoff against him, given the different dynamics in the runoff that would put disproportionately more ideological voters into the electorate that would turn out, if he could keep it close in the general election, Landry would have had a good chance to win. But when Boustany put up nearly 50 percent more votes than Landry in the general election, that sealed Landry’s fate absent a Boustany blunder.

Landry now faces a problem in that there aren’t many positions open to him commensurate with his current elective status where he might be competitive. Democrat Sen. Mary Landrieu’s seat will be up for grabs in 2014, but already a strong field of Republicans looks to be assembling with Rep. Bill Cassidy showing much interest and Gov. Bobby Jindal not dissuading those who think he might give it a go. In 2015, statewide elections might afford him an opportunity to grab something left open by the progressive ambitions of some statewide officeholders shooting for the Governor’s Mansion. Most intriguingly, were Sen. David Vitter to respond to that siren song and succeed, then opens up his spot.

But Landry’s problem is the slash-and-burn campaign he felt compelled to run to stay in Congress. This has turned off some significant portion of GOP activists that damages his chances. Had he looked somewhat more strategically to the future, running a less aggressive campaign or even not running at all (perhaps he could have leveraged a deal out of Boustany supporters to have them support him for something in the next few years in exchange), he would be in a better position for a post-Congressional political career. His only realistic shot now, given these dynamics, might be a minor statewide office, but had he played his cards differently, he might have been in a much stronger position to claim one of those.

The Louisiana Supreme Court will see a bit of history when it achieves a Republican majority with the election of Jeff Hughes for District 5 (this breaks a tie established only last month when Assoc. Justice John Weimer ran unopposed but switched from Democrat to no party). Given the demographics of the district where almost all blacks, about a third of it, vote for a black Democrat while others vote largely Republican, against such a candidate First Circuit Court of Appeals Judge John Michael Guidry whoever survived out of the general election among Republicans looked set to win.

Hughes did so, riding a campaign that unusually mentioned his preferences on issues of the day and helped with substantial support from trial lawyer interests as he has ruled more favorable than most in the favor in his service on the same court as Guidry. Despite some special interest groups who lately almost always support Republicans over Democrats in races endorsing Guidry or neither, Hughes’ strategy of presenting himself as allied with conservative issue preferences while finding plenty of financing from trial lawyers succeeded in inducing the normal vote from the district that would favor a candidate such as himself in this situation.

Thus, one can expect to see a further shift in Court decision-making away from activism that has facilitated the political left historically in Louisiana, mirroring the increasingly conservative trend and strengthening its majorities in the majoritarian branches. In fact, with this outcome now every elective statewide office or collective body has a Republican majority. The triumphant march of the GOP, and to a large degree that of conservatism, finally entirely has swept Democrats, and to a lesser degree liberalism, from power in Louisiana. Whether it can make that permanent and expand upon it remains to be seen.

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