Just when you think Louisiana might have turned from its liberal populism ….
A review of Louisiana’s election results might may one think this ancient trait in the state’s political culture may have receded further. Several contests provided data, beginning with Republican incumbent Sen. Bill Cassidy’s defense. Cassidy never was in any danger, but because 13 challengers flooded the field, including well-funded Democrat Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins and Democrat Derrick “Champ” Edwards, who racked up as much as 44 percent in a previous statewide try, the multiplicity of competition might hold him under 50 percent.
No worries; Cassidy stomped the field with 59 percent of the vote, the largest margin in a general election since 1998. Perkins led the also-rans, but humiliatingly with the smallest proportion that the highest-polling Democrat received since the 19th century. Altogether, Democrats received only 36 percent, the least of any major party since 1984.
Then there was the House races. Republican incumbents breezed back into office, as did Second District Democrat Rep. Cedric Richmond — but the results from the only non-incumbent race, the Fifth, doesn’t inspire confidence in the party’s leftist agenda. There, former congressional administrative assistant for retiring incumbent GOP Rep. Ralph Abraham Luke Letlow led the field, with Republican state Rep. Lance Harris squeaking past the highest placing Democrat.
Perhaps the most striking GOP performance came in a loss. Despite having not had to run a campaign for nearly a decade, only running for and winning a police jury position, and having been outspent this years through the middle of October by an astounding 60-to-one, Republican Public Service Commission candidate Shane Smiley came within about 20,000 votes of knocking off one of the last old school, unapologetic liberal populists Democrat incumbent Foster Campbell. Had Republicans been able to find a quality candidate, they would have picked off Campbell.
These results suggest the further dissipation of liberal populism with its Manichean worldview in Louisiana as evidenced by a declining electoral appeal. Then again … Amendments #4 and #5 made excellent fiscal and economic sense, while Amendment #6 didn’t.
#4 would clamp down on a state expenditure limit that historically has produced a higher spending cap than economic growth would suggest. #5 would free firms wanting to invest in areas from having to run a gauntlet of political approvals to avoid confiscatory property tax rates. #6 would carve out more exceptions in property taxes for certain constituencies, aggravating the problem addressed by #5.
Despite these realities, #4 and #5 got shot down, while #6 gained approval. Nothing like making it easier to redistribute tax dollars towards favored constituencies at the expense of bogeymen like business; it’s the traditional Louisiana way. At least for a bit longer.