Louisiana will hold elections for congressional seats next month, just as it does every two years. But these elections probably will be the last of their kind.
A new state law means Louisiana is letting go of its free-for-all, nonpartisan open elections, at least in races for the U.S. Senate and House. Barring an unexpected objection from the U.S. Justice Department -- which maintains a 40-year-old oversight of elections in the South -- Louisiana will shift to closed, party primaries for all federal elections beginning next year.
In 2008, the system will be different. The incumbent and challengers will run in their respective party primaries in September. If one or both parties lacks a front-runner with a majority of votes, closed party runoff elections will follow in October.
The winners of those party primaries -- plus independents and third-party candidates -- will run in a winner-take-all election in November
What does this mean for Louisiana and in general? (answers under the fold)
2. Mary Landrieu could benefit again from a divided Republican Party. Especially if they go to an October runoff. October runoffs for a U.S. Senate race are basically murder for challengers.
3. The Congressional elections will change slightly for the Democrats.
Let's take a look at the voter registration numbers
Statewide: 55% of voters are registered Democrats, 25% are registered Republicans, 20% are registered Independents.
Democrats hold majorities or pluralities in registration in 63 of 64 parishes.
In 2010, we're going to see the closed primary make a statewide impact when it comes time to pick someone to face Vitter.
For Congressional Districts:
Dems have a plurality in registration in CD-1 (Jindal), which doesn't do them one bit of good.
They have their highest percentage in CD-2 (Jefferson) and their second highest in CD-3 (Melancon). The third highest is in CD-5 (Alexander).
So, here's a district by district primary impact report.
CD-1: This is probably going to be a pretty low turnout primary. 75% of registered Dems in this district are white, but 36% of whites are registered Dems here. This could bump Jindal's November percentages down to 82%. Basically Livingston, Vitter, and Jindal have a tradition of blowouts here. Saint Tammany Parish is the only one that has a Republican plurality in registration.
CD-2: There's a much longer post on Katrina and all that. But basically if Jefferson makes it though this year, it will be due to more conservative voters, and in a closed primary, Jefferson will be in a lot of trouble. 75% of registered Democrats are African-American though.
CD-3: Future challengers to Melancon will probably endure a few October bloodbaths. When Melancon retires, who knows how the turnout will influence the next nominee. Romero only carried Iberia Parish this year.
CD-4: Democrats have a 53/27 advantage in registration. But 52% of registered Dems are white and 46% of registered Dems are African-American. So the odds suggest that the next nominee to face McCrery will probably come out of Shreveport, or will have African-American support in some other way.
CD-5: It's been 2 years since Rodney Alexander switched, and Dems still can't get enough traction to go for him. The registration edge is 57/24, which is enough to carry Pointe Coupee Parish. The racial split amongst LA-5 Democrats is 55/44 white. Granted, the majority of primary voters will probably be African-American.
CD-6: I can't understand how Richard Baker was unopposed this year. The Democrats have another narrow split where 52% of Dems are White and 46% are African-American. Granted, an actual candidate would be nice.
CD-7: Mike Stagg just got clobbered this year. As well, two-thirds of Democrats here are white. But, if they don't bother to put up a real candidate against Boustany, they won't improve any. There's probably not any big changes due for this district.
So basically, the dynamics will change enough that a candidate will get two months to campaign for an actual general election. As well, there'll be no runoffs in December, which improves the hand of spoiler candidates.
At the very least, when LA-4 and LA-5 open up, or there's a good year, expect a new kind of hard-fought primary.
And when Landrieu comes up, expect her to have an easier time when the top two Republicans are having to run against each other in a runoff in October.
It's a gain for Landrieu, and maybe a gain for State Dems in general.