SADOW: Winners, Losers of Map Delay Not Yet All Known

The recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling to keep in place Louisiana’s most recently-enacted congressional reapportionment plan for now draws to a close the first phase of a struggle that ultimately should define jurisprudence in this area for decades to come. Four distinct winners and losers have emerged from this – for now.

That map contains two majority-minority districts, but was declared unconstitutional by a three-judge panel last month. Despite that, the Court, citing the controversy as yet unresolved so close to the start of the elections process, halted that injunction in order to provide adequate administration of the 2024 elections. The timing was such that the trial’s remedial phase could have produced a constitutional alternative, likely a plan very close to the 2022 single M/M version that was prevented from implementation but never had a trial on its merits, but the Court majority decided not to let that play out as a signal that it will take up this case over the next year.

The map to be used this fall is highly unlikely to survive that scrutiny, thus to understand who wins and who loses, the short and long run must be analyzed for each, although one is pretty easy to figure out: national Democrats win in the short run. Essentially, they pick up an extra seat in the House of Representatives for 2025-26. As certainly they would lose it in 2026 elections by which time the Court most likely will have ruled a single M/M map can be drawn legally, but as the 2024 outcome could be close between the two major parties, for this cycle every seat helps.

The biggest loser, in both the short and long term, is GOP Rep. Garret Graves. He resides in the Sixth District now M/M that clips Shreveport, takes a bite out of Alexandria along the way to clipping portions of Lafayette and Baton Rouge at its southern termini, although representatives may run in any district in the state. As a white Republican, he would face little hope of reelection in that district.

That noted, even as his chances could be better running in the nearby districts of GOP Reps. Clay Higgins (Third) or Julia Letlow (Fifth), if not quite as tough as staying in the Sixth, these also would be heavy lifts. Failure to win reelection in 2024 substantially reduces his chances of reentering Congress even with a 2026 single M/M map, so this could finish his elective career.

In his place arrives the biggest short run winner, black Democrat state Rep. Cleo Fields. Having served two terms in severely gerrymandered districts declared unconstitutional, he appears likely to complete the hat trick with yet another as a big favorite in the Sixth. The almost certain junking of this map won’t leave him a place running in 2026, but he will be 64 by then and likely ready to call it a (checkered political) career, with a nice parting gift of two last years in Washington 28 years after his previous stay.

Finally, the short-term loser but long-term winner is Republican Gov. Jeff Landry. He loses only in the sense that he backed a map that for one election cycle harms his political party, hopefully not for him in a way that costs the GOP the House. Perhaps he believed the timing would work out where the judiciary would install a remedial single M/M map upon rejection of the obviously flawed map to be used this cycle – one with a district not much different from a map three decades ago supposed to fix Fields’ unconstitutional district that itself was declared unconstitutional – but it didn’t work out.

Nonetheless, with a good chance the Court eventually will declare unconstitutional giving race a preferred position among reapportionment criteria using this case based on the map Landry preferred, Landry will have a single M/M map later in his term that almost certainly will flip the seat back into the GOP column. Additionally, along the way he reduced, if not removed, an intra-party rival in the form of Graves who backed a Landry opponent in last year’s governor’s race, as well as aided a quasi-ally in Fields, an influential figure particularly among black political activists in the Baton Rouge area who kept his distance from the governor’s race even though it featured a quality black Democrat candidate. A promotion also removes Fields from a position of influence in the state Senate.

If Democrats end up winning the House by a single seat, Landry will face heated criticism. Otherwise, given the political dynamics involved and the chance to steer reapportionment law in a historical direction to his party’s liking, Landry comes off on the plus side in all of this.

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