Louisiana Democrats received bad news going forward about their statewide prospects from the 2020 elections, both in state and nationally.
In a year that supposedly some “blue wave” would swamp the country, little evidence of that showed up nationally and in Louisiana. At the national level, while Democrats likely narrowly won the presidency, they likely barely kept control of the House of Representative and likely gained hardly any Senate seats, too few to take control of the chamber.
Specific to Louisiana, Republican Pres. Donald Trump received about the same proportion of the vote as he did in 2016, 58 percent. Republican members of the House cruised to reelection, with only the Second District’s Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond chalking up one for his party in a district drawn heavily in the party’s favor. Incumbent GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy easily dispatched a baker’s dozen of opponents, with Democrat endorsee Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins drawing a humiliating 19 percent of the vote and candidates running under the party label obtaining just 35 percent total.
More interestingly, however, were contests down the ballot for state legislative and gubernatorial contests. The stalemate at the national level turned into a GOP advantage in these. The party picked up a governorship and flipped control of New Hampshire’s statehouse, with these the only changes in control of a branch of government. (Most state legislative seats are up for grabs on presidential election years; most state governorships are contested with midterm Congressional elections.) But in aggregate, from prior to the election Republicans picked up 179 legislative seats while the Democrats lost 124 (the difference being vacancies plus other or no party legislator changes).
Perhaps most similar to Louisiana’s current political situation was Pennsylvania. Although its presidential vote essentially turned into a draw, like Louisiana it has a Democrat as governor who has opposed bitterly a majority Republican Legislature, especially on policy about the Wuhan coronavirus pandemic. Like Louisiana’s Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf has taken a heavy-handed approach more in line with a desire to command and control rather than in following science.
Despite Trump running almost 10 points fewer in Pennsylvania than in Louisiana, there Republicans picked up 3 seats (of 203) in their House and a Senate seat (of 25; half run every two years). They also flipped a couple of statewide elected offices (who run separately from the governor.) Observers saw that successful candidates ran against Wolf’s lockdown policies and agenda and radical ideas largely articulated in Philadelphia such as defunding the police – similar to rhetoric emerging from New Orleans.
These results further confirm that Edwards probably will become political history after 2023, especially as he has given every indication he wants to continue overkill on emergency restrictions long past their effective dates. Whatever slim chance he had to extend his elective career in the state, such as by challenging successfully Republican Sen. John Kennedy in 2022, has evaporated by his mishandling of virus policy.
That also doesn’t bode well for legislative Democrats. None of them in the House signed a petition currently in litigation that would overturn Edwards’ restrictions, putting a few of them at risk in 2023 and shoring up Republicans so that this chamber might produce a supermajority for the GOP. In the Senate, no real pickup possibilities loom to threaten the extant Republican supermajority there.
Legislative Democrats just have to hope that a couple of years away from the lockdown will dull memories of their association with it. Except that having a Democratic administration in Washington entertaining, if not actively pursuing, a kooky policy agenda will provide a lot of reminders to Louisiana’s center-right electorate pushing them away from any Democrat.
If Democrats couldn’t get the job done electorally in statehouses in such a favorable environment in 2020, they have little chance of doing so in Louisiana in 2023. The makes the likeliest 2024 and beyond scenario in Louisiana an era of total GOP control with legislative supermajorities.