Most of what what happened over the weekend as ballots were counted and a busier-than-one-might-expect special election cycle took place around Louisiana came to a close went according to the chalk, and there wasn’t much in the way of surprise outcomes. Still, some relatively important developments did take place in those elections and we would be remiss not to go through them, Monday Morning Quarterback style.
So here goes…
LOUISIANA 5TH DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL: Mrs. Letlow Goes to Washington.
Julia Letlow was a shoe-in from the minute she announced she would be running for the seat her husband Luke won in November but died of complications from COVID-19 before he could serve. The sympathy vote alone was enough to predict her victory, but it turns out she’s a pretty good politician to boot. Letlow worked hard, raised a lot of money and traveled around the district at a breakneck pace even despite the fact she could have won a Joe Biden-style basement campaign.
She was rewarded with a 65 percent share of the vote, a dominating performance over a lackluster field of challengers. The argument that the 5th District has been without a representative long enough in this Congress and going to a runoff Letlow would have been sure to win would only make that problem more acute clearly carried the day.
LOUISIANA 2ND DISTRICT CONGRESSIONAL: Left And Lefter In The Runoff
The partisan makeup of the 2nd Congressional District, which is primarily a New Orleans district but snakes up the Mississippi River to include the mostly-black areas of North Baton Rouge, is 63 percent Democrat and 12 percent Republican. The only chance of a Republican candidate to win that district is with party primaries and a Democrat nominee so hated or debauched that Democrats would cross the aisle to get rid of their own.
So it was always a massive uphill fight for the LAGOP’s endorsed candidate Claston Bernard to be competitive in the 2nd District race to replace Cedric Richmond.
That Bernard didn’t make the runoff was not a surprise. That he managed only 10 percent of the vote was a bit of one, particularly since Bernard’s vote was less than half of that garnered by third-place finisher Gary Chambers, an inveterate race-hustler and online provocateur whose antics have done more to embarrass his community than anyone else’s in Baton Rouge. Chambers managed 33 percent of the vote in East Baton Rouge Parish to Bernard’s two percent – this after Bernard was an All-American decathlete on the LSU track team. That’s how radical-Left the 2nd District has become.
But Chambers’ 21 percent wasn’t enough to put him in the runoff. Chambers fell two points behind Karen Carter Peterson’s 23 percent, and the state senator from New Orleans will face her colleague Troy Carter, who led the primary field with 36 percent of the vote. Bernard’s 10 percent put him in fourth, and he couldn’t have fixed that with the six percent three other Republicans – Chelsea Ardoin, Greg Lirette and Sheldon Vincent – managed in the race.
Will a 13-point advantage heading into the runoff be enough for Carter to hold off KCP? We don’t know. If you throw Bernard, Ardoin, Lirette and Vincent’s votes behind Carter, who is a committed leftist but less radical in tone than Peterson, he’s over 50. But Chambers would be a better fit in Peterson’s camp, and his 21 added to her 23 makes this a fairly close race.
It’ll all depend on turnout. And it ought to be remembered that Stacey Abrams has backed KCP, which would seem to present her with a GOTV edge over Carter.
Republicans have a lot of leverage over Troy Carter right now. That ought to be used quite ruthlessly. There really is zero difference in terms of the prospective voting records of the two – for example, the LABI scorecard rating for Troy Carter is 19 percent for the 2016-19 legislative term. For Peterson it’s 15 percent. Who cares who wins?
We said this would be a race to the bottom. It is. And it’s only just begun. Republican voters ought to play these two clowns off each other and siphon off whatever bribes and goodies they can get, because Carter will lose the race if he can’t capture nearly all of the GOP vote and Peterson can win outright if she can find a way to reel it in.
STATE REPRESENTATIVE – HOUSE DISTRICT 82: Connick-Schlegel Runoff.
This was the result everyone figured would happen, and it’s tough to predict how it’ll turn out. And it’s a classic case for why there ought to be party primaries in Louisiana.
You had three people running for this seat, which belonged to Cameron Henry and then, for a short time, his brother Charles who just quit to become a lobbyist. It’s also had David Vitter and Steve Scalise representing it as well, and even David Duke had it for a term. It’s the Old Metairie district in the Louisiana House.
Two of the three were Laurie Schlegel, whose husband Scott is a district judge in Jefferson Parish and recently ran for the state Supreme Court, coming in third behind Will Crain and Hans Liljeberg, and Eddie Connick, a cousin of those other Connicks who have been in politics in the New Orleans area forever; Eddie, unlike the others, isn’t a lawyer but rather is in medical equipment sales and recently retired from that business. The third was a black Democrat named Raymond Delaney.
Delaney managed 25 percent in a heavily-Republican district. Connick had a slight 40-36 advantage over Schlegel.
Which means that now, the two Republicans are going to be in a race to the middle to reel in Delaney’s vote. And whoever wins will be the least conservative, or better put, least representative of perhaps the most conservative House district in the whole state, of the bunch.
With party primary, you would have had a race to the right in the primary to capture the Republican vote, and then the winner would have beaten Delaney in an ideological debate. That’s how it’s done in all these other states around the South who are kicking Louisiana’s rear end with far-superior policymaking – because their elected representatives won ideological fights in general elections rather than pandering contests to seduce voters who would never turn out for them.
BESE DISTRICT 4: An R vs. D Runoff Tussle
The school choice/education reform candidate in the race is Michael Melerine, a Shreveport insurance defense attorney who works at the law firm of Seabaugh & Sepulvado. The Seabaugh is in fact Alan Seabaugh, the conservative hero in the Louisiana House of Representatives. So that should tell you who Melerine is. He was in a five-way race which included a black Democrat named Cassie Williams, a Republican named Shelly McFarland, who is the wife of state representative Jack McFarland, former Democrat state senator John Milkovich, who ran as an independent, and a no-party candidate named Cody Whitaker.
Williams was always going to come in first as the only D in the race. BESE District 4 has 40 percent of its voters registered as Democrats to 35 percent registered as Republicans, and it’s 35 percent black. That gave her a no-brainer runoff spot and she got it, leading the way with 29 percent of the vote.
Milkovich, who was turned out of his state senate seat by Barry Milligan in the 2019 election in a blowout, attempted to make a comeback by shedding the “D” next to his name, but his campaign was a mess – he spent the whole time attacking Seabaugh for his perceived role in backing Milligan and he embarrassed himself by accusing Melerine of backing Common Core and attributing to Melerine an endorsement by an organization which has made statements supportive of Common Core – Stand For Children – which didn’t endorse Melerine. The Louisiana Federation for Children did. Milkovich finished a poor fourth.
The real race was going to be between Melerine and McFarland, and Melerine won that by a 28-22 count. One wonders if McFarland’s husband openly discussing the idea of bringing a bill to raise state gas taxes while she was running for BESE didn’t sabotage her campaign. It might not have mattered, as Melerine had a lot of enthusiastic support in the race.
In any event, this is an R vs. D runoff in a district where it’s difficult for a Democrat to get to 50 percent, so Melerine is very likely to win. From a conservative standpoint that’s what needs to happen, so the result so far looks good.
LAKE CHARLES MAYOR: A Massive Blowout For Nic Hunter.
Something interesting to notice – there are two Republican mayors in Louisiana’s seven largest cities. New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport and Alexandria have Democrats, Monroe has a nominal independent (though Friday Ellis, elected last year, is a conservative and his wife sits on BESE as an elected Republican) and Lafayette and Lake Charles have Republican mayors.
It seems pretty clear the two Republicans are the most popular of the bunch.
Josh Guillory has, by all accounts, some pretty sizable popularity which only grows with every aggression against him by Democrats elected and otherwise – as evidenced by the reaction when he tore into Gov. John Bel Edwards for having trashed Lafayette’s refusal to impose a local mask mandate.
And Nic Hunter, who has dealt with two hurricanes laying waste to Lake Charles in the past year along with the end of a 10-year industrial construction boom in that city letting the air out of its economy, just faced the voters on Saturday.
The result? They’re with him. Big-time.
Hunter had three Democrats running against him. He did to them what those two hurricanes did to his fair city. When the smoke cleared Hunter walked away with just under three-quarters of the vote, an amazing number which puts Nic Hunter on the map as a potential candidate for higher office.
Let’s remember that while Lake Charles is a pretty Republican-friendly city, Democrats outnumber Republicans 49-25 in voter registration. For Hunter to pull a number like that is an indication people from all walks of political life like his brand of governance, and that should be scalable.
Keep an eye on this guy. He could be a comer for a larger race in a couple of years.