…and that race could be a portent of trouble for Republican candidates in the statewide elections this fall if the party and its allies can’t counter.
Here’s a graphic of the returns from Saturday’s seven legislative races. Note the turnout figures at the bottom of each entry…
You’ll see that for all of those races outside of the one in District 18, turnout ranged between 10.3 percent and 16.9 percent. But in District 18, a Democrat-held seat thought to be a potential Republican flip, it was 28.2 percent – twice as much as the average among the other races.
And 75 percent of the vote in District 18 went to Democrat candidates, which is a significant change from previous races when a 50-50 split, or thereabouts, is the usual pattern. As a result, Democrat Jeremy Lacombe pulled 43 percent of the vote while Republican Tammi Fabre barely squeaked past Democrat NaTashia Carter Benoit, 23 percent to 22 percent.
You’d say that Fabre badly underperformed on Saturday, but that isn’t true, strictly speaking. Had turnout for District 18 been what it was in the other legislative races on Saturday, she would probably have been in the 30’s, perhaps a few points behind Lacombe and in striking distance for the March runoff.
So what happened in District 18?
Well, the Pointe Coupee Parish Democrat machine, currently run by Parish President Major Thibaut and District Attorney Ricky Ward (the father of state senator Rick Ward, a Republican who said he’s sitting out the District 18 race and not endorsing candidates), got in heavily behind Lacombe. That surely helped, particularly to turn out black votes for him – something which is counter to the current trend in which black voters won’t vote for a white Democrat when a black Democrat is in the race.
But there was something else going on which made a huge difference in the race – namely, third-party activity from an out-of-state entity pumping big money in.
Our readers might remember the peculiarly-named Education Reform Now from a poll they put out several weeks back which had John Bel Edwards getting some 47 percent of the vote in one-on-one matchups against both Ralph Abraham and Eddie Rispone, but more significantly with a sample containing an outsized proportion of Democrats – 53 percent, which is 8 to 10 percent more Democrats than in major Louisiana races. The one outlier to that figure was Edwards’ runoff victory over David Vitter in November of 2015, in which Democrats were 51 percent of the voting electorate; few think this fall’s elections will have the same character based on the two GOP candidates’ lack of fatal flaws like the one Vitter succumbed to in 2015.
But obviously, Education Reform Now thinks so. And in District 18 it looks as though they might have had something of a practice run for this fall’s elections in an effort to gin up that 53 percent Democrat number.
The PAC spent close to $50,000 on the race, an unheard amount of third-party money for a legislative special election. Some $12,000 of it went to local political consultants Michael Beychok and Ryan Berni for direct mail and digital advertising, respectively. And here’s what that money bought from Beychok…
Two things about this, one entertaining and one outrageous.
The entertaining bit is that an “education” group can’t apparently spell “fighter” or hire someone who can to produce a direct mail piece. That’s pretty embarrassing stuff, and it’s worth snickering over.
And the outrageous bit is that the attack on Fabre is a bald-faced lie. She’s never been a lobbyist. She’s a real estate agent in New Roads, for crying out loud, and what political activity she’s engaged in before running for state representative primarily involves membership in the local chamber of commerce.
Not to mention that Lacombe took more campaign cash than Fabre did, including a goodly amount from the usual PAC’s who donate to Democrats. The idea that he’s fighting for the little man while she’s a corporate stooge is laughably dishonest.
But that’s the kind of attack one expects from the Left. We’ve seen it a million times – truth is no particular impediment during campaign season.
The direct mail and digital ads weren’t the bulk of what Education Reform Now Advocacy spent on the District 18 race. About three-quarters of it went elsewhere. Specifically this…
JBC Campaigns is a company belonging to Jake Braun, the Chicago-based Democrat campaign data guru who made his bones as the National Deputy Field Director for the Obama presidential campaign in 2008. Braun was the guy in charge of field organizing efforts and integration of social media, targeting and traditional communication platforms into the campaign’s turnout operation; if you’ll remember all the talk back then about how high-tech Obama’s campaign was in data-mining social media posts and likes in order to identify voters and then send them hyper-targeted messages based on their psychographic profiles, well, that’s Braun’s handiwork. After spending some time in the administration Braun founded Cambridge Global Research in 2013, and he now has a nice sinecure at the University of Chicago.
Education Reform Now Advocacy paid Braun some $66,000 last fall for turnout efforts in a pair of East Baton Rouge School Board races, and now he’s catching $36,000 for a House special election.
It’s unmistakable that a machine is being built, and given that poll this outfit put out it doesn’t take much to conclude what it’s being built for. This is an effort to re-elect John Bel Edwards and to give him a more malleable state legislature to work with.
Well, it’s probably more accurate to call them by their real name, which is DFER – Democrats For Education Reform. Education Reform Now is really more of a brand name that gives this group a patina of bipartisanship, but it’s an unmistakably Democrat organization. DFER is headed by a former candidate for mayor of Newark, New Jersey named Shavar Jeffries, whose day job is as a civil rights attorney. The money flowing into this organization comes from a melange of left-wing operators, perhaps most notably where Louisiana is concerned Michael Bloomberg and John Arnold, a Houston hedge fund manager and former Enron official who throws money at Democrats across the country.
We’ve yet to find evidence of any Louisiana backing behind this organization. To call this a shadowy dark-money outfit would be pretty accurate. But they’re here, and it’s obvious they’re looking to do to Louisiana what leftist money groups did in other states like Texas, Georgia and Florida last year – namely, to flood us with campaign cash intended to turn the place blue.