There wasn’t a whole lot of buildup before the completion of Louisiana’s special election cycle, which took place on Saturday, and the turnout figures reflected as much. Nevertheless, there were three not-inconsequential seats decided in those races.
Here’s what to take from the results…
1. Louisiana’s voters really didn’t care much.
Of the four multiparish races decided on Saturday, in none of them was turnout greater than 17.4 percent. That was in the House District 82 race in, essentially, Old Metairie, where Laurie Schlegel nosed out Eddie Connick by a razor-thin 217-vote margin.
In the big-ticket race of the cycle, the 2nd District congressional race Troy Carter won by 10 points over Karen Carter Peterson, turnout was 16.6 percent.
And in the BESE District 4 race where Michael Melerine clobbered Cassie Williams 62-38, turnout was only 10 percent.
There was an 11.7 percent turnout in a Court of Appeals race in Monroe won by former state representative Marcus Hunter over another Democrat.
Those are putrid numbers across the board. They indicate a couple of things: first, people really don’t turn out for special elections in the spring, and second, Louisiana’s voters are having a lot of trouble getting excited about anything political given the direction of, well, everything at present.
2. Twitter is not real life.
The 2nd District congressional race was always going to be a matter of turnout given that there were no differences policy-wise between Carter and Peterson. But going into Saturday, while the smart money had been on Carter you’d have thought Peterson had a strong chance to pull an upset based on social media.
Karen Carter Peterson has 23,000 Twitter followers. Troy Carter has 2,411.
On Facebook, Peterson has 6,700 followers. Carter has 2,500.
Peterson also had a number of big internet influencers like Stacey Abrams pushing her. It didn’t matter.
That’s a pretty good lesson for a lot of political folks around the state who panic when they attract negative attention from trolls on Twitter or Facebook: the trolls don’t matter. It’s pretty easy to create the impression that social media is a reflection of real life by getting several dozen comments here and there, and it’s also easy to get carried away and think that represents the world.
But it doesn’t.
3. An old name falls in Jefferson.
It really isn’t fair to see Eddie Connick as a member of Jefferson Parish’s political machine simply based on his last name. After all, Connick’s background is different than the other political Connicks – who have been district attorneys around the New Orleans area and currently occupy a state senate seat on the Westbank. Eddie isn’t a lawyer; he’s a businessman in the medical equipment sales game.
But Laurie Schlegel’s close-shave victory indicates, perhaps, that at least in the Old Metairie District 82, voters aren’t looking for an old-familiar name.
Of course, Schlegel’s name is pretty familiar as well. Her husband Scott is a judge in Jefferson Parish. But the Schlegel brand is seen as associated with reform, while the Connick name isn’t.
Is that fair? We don’t have a firm opinion on the subject.
What we can say is Laurie Schlegel is likely to be one of the most conservative women in the state legislature. That’s good, and it’s to be expected from House District 82 – which is a seat David Vitter, Steve Scalise and Cameron Henry have all held.
4. Did “wokeness” fail?
That’s what the New Orleans Times-Picayune says, quoting James Carville, following the 2nd District congressional result. But it’s probably more true of Melerine’s BESE victory over Williams, who was an even more kooky leftist than even Karen Carter Peterson was. Williams ran on “equitable education,” a rather amorphous concept which really translates to moving money from high-performing school districts to the failed ones.
Only 10 percent of the voters turned out for that race. Melerine was seen as an easy winner, so that had something to do with it. But it turns out that “equitable” education doesn’t do much for the Democrats in the Shreveport area either.
In the 2nd Congressional District, though, it’s hard to make the case that by electing Troy Carter, voters rejected the “woke” agenda.
As we’ve said pretty consistently throughout, there is zero difference between Troy Carter and KCP. He’s every bit as woke as she is, and he ran on a far-left platform that 10 years ago would probably have been unsellable even in that district. Troy Carter’s voting record in Congress will be lock-step with AOC and Ilhan Omar, just like KCP’s would have been.
The only difference is that he’s boring rather than crazy.
Now, if you want to equate wokeness with insanity, then sure – wokeness took a hit on Saturday. More than that, though, Stacey Abrams and Gary Chambers took a hit, and it’s pretty clear neither one have any stroke in Louisiana politics.
5. Could be two new state senators rather than just one.
Carter’s Senate seat will now come open, and it’s more or less a done deal that his nephew Gary Carter will run for it. The rumor is that Mack Cormier, the white Democrat House member from Belle Chasse who knocked off Republican Chris Leopold in a 2019 upset, will also get into that race.
It’s unlikely Cormier would win that race, but it’ll be an even lower-turnout affair than Saturday’s was.
But the interesting rumor has it that KCP will also be leaving the state senate even though she didn’t win. Apparently, goes the rumor, she has a job waiting in Washington with the Democrat National Committee and she’ll be pulling up stakes.
We’ll miss her. She’s been a great gift to conservatism in Louisiana. But if the rumor is true we’d be willing to bet we’ve not seen the last of Karen Carter Peterson. She’ll be back running for something eventually.