Louisiana State Senate
Louisiana is (proudly) America's strangest state, and its politics aren't much different. While in recent years the Pelican State has looked more and more like the rest of the Deep South, it has plenty of quirks left. Louisiana uses the jungle primary for all its elections rather than a partisan primary: All candidates run on one ballot regardless of party, with the top-two advancing to a runoff if no one takes more than 50 percent.
The state legislature is also quite different than most other states. Representatives and senators are elected to four-year terms the year before the presidential race: The last election was held in 2011, and the next will be in 2015. Members are limited to three full terms in each chamber. Historically, partisanship has mattered less in the Louisiana legislature than it has in other states. Democrats chair five of the 17 Senate committees and six of the 16 House committees, despite being in the minority in both chambers. Democrats are still also able to win in very red seats.
What follows is a look at both houses of the Louisiana legislature, utilizing newly released data from Daily Kos Elections' President-by-Legislative District project. You can find a master list of all our state data here. You can take a look at how each state House, state Senate, and congressional district voted in the 2012 presidential election.
The interactive maps were created by Stephen Wolf. You can find links to all of Stephen's previously released maps here, which you may want to bookmark. In all of Stephen's maps, districts in solid blue were carried by Obama and are represented by a Democrat, while those in solid red were won by Mitt Romney and are held by a Republican. Lighter red districts voted for Obama and a Republican legislator while those in lighter blue went for Romney and a Democratic legislator. Note that the map displays use only the two-party vote to give you a more equivalent comparison between presidential and legislative results, but this post and Daily Kos Elections numbers include totals for third-party candidates. In any case, the differences are minor.
Head below for a look at both chambers, starting with the Senate.
Democrats last won a majority in the 2007 legislative elections. However, a combination of party switches and Republican special election victories gave Republicans their first post-Reconstruction majority in the chamber in early 2011.
Republicans soon passed a friendly redistricting map in both chambers, and the 2011 general election that year allowed Team Red to expand their majority. Republicans currently hold a 26-13 supermajority and they're likely to keep control here for a long time. Mitt Romney took the state 58-41, and he netted 28 of the 39 districts. The median district voted for Romney 66-32, a massive 17 points to the right of the state.
There's only one seat where Obama or Romney's margin of victory was less than 10 points: SD-08, which is centered on the West Bank of the Mississippi, taking up many New Orleans suburbs in Jefferson Parish (Louisiana calls counties parishes). SD-08 voted for Romney 52-47 and is currently held by Republican state Senate President John Alario. Alario previously served two stints as the Democratic Speaker of the House when Edwin Edwards was governor.
Three Senate Democrats hail from Romney seats. Gary Smith represents SD-19, a 54-44 Romney seat located in the River Parishes between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Veteran legislature Ben Nevers represents SD-12, which includes Bogalusa and several rural communities located north of Lake Pontchartrain near the Mississippi border. Romney won 66-33 and Republicans targeted Nevers for defeat in 2011: Nevers pulled off a very tight win, but he will be termed-out in 2015.
The final Romney Democrat is SD-28's Eric LaFleur, who represents a seat north of Lafayette. LaFleur holds another 66-33 Romney seat and is considered a potential candidate for higher office. Republican tried to unseat LeFleur in 2011 but he won easily: During that campaign, LaFleur ran this incredibly effective ad. LeFleur is eligible to run for one more term in the Senate.
One Republican holds an Obama seat: Elbert Guillory, who represents several communities north of Lafayette. Guillory's SD-24 voted for Obama 61-38, and when Guillory last won here he was a conservative Democrat. Guillory switched parties in 2013, giving the Louisiana Senate its first African-American Republican member since Reconstruction. After flirting with a U.S. Senate bid for 2014, Guillory entered the open-seat race for lieutenant governor: His seat will most likely return to the blue column in 2015.
Louisiana State House of Representatives
Democrats last won a plurality here in 2007, but a Republican was chosen as speaker. A combination of party switches and special elections gave Republicans their first post-reconstruction plurality in 2010, and they emerged from the 2011 elections with an even stronger hand. Currently, Republicans hold a 59-44 majority, with two independents. Romney took 74 of the 105 House districts: The median seat went for Romney 68-31, an insane 20 points to the right of the state. There are four seats where the margin between Obama and Romney was less than 10 percent. The closest district in the entire state is HD-85, located in Gretna and Terrytown in Jefferson Parish: Romney won 50-49 here, and the seat is held by Republican Bryan Adams (not the "Summer of '69" guy).
As Stephen Wolf's map shows, fourteen House Democrats sit in Romney seats. The reddest Democratic held seat is HD-54 on the bayou, which voted for Romney 81-17. So far, this is the reddest Democratic-held seat we've found anywhere in the nation. Democratic Rep. Jerry Gisclair even managed to win in 2011 without any Republican opposition. Only one Republican holds an Obama seat: Tom Willmott's HD-92, based in Kenner in Jefferson Parish, voted for Obama 50-48.
There's a big regional divide between the conservative seats that have turned completely Republican and the districts that are still willing to send Democrats to Baton Rouge. Conservatives in the New Orleans suburbs started voting Republican across the board long ago (though Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu did well in the area in 2008). Not surprisingly, there aren't any Romney Democrats representing any significant portions of Jefferson or St. Tammany Parishes. In North Louisiana, the most culturally Southern part of the state, Rep. Gene Reynolds is the only Democrat to hold a Romney seat.
The more Catholic-French southern parts of the state still retain some Democratic heritage downballot, and most of the remaining Romney Democrats hail from the area. Democrat Stephen Ortego was even able to prevail in an open seat in the Lafayette-area HD-39 in 2011 (Romney 69-32), in a contest Republicans had high hopes of winning. Still, it's probably only a matter of time before these seats start voting Republican for legislature as well.
In Louisiana, like in most of the Deep South, presidential voting is incredibly racially polarized. In 2008 Obama carried African Americans 94-4, while losing white voters 84-14. Unsurprisingly, almost every legislative seat carried by Obama has African Americans as a plurality of registered voters, while all of Romney's districts are predominantly white. There are two exceptions, both in the House. The aforementioned HD-92 has a 51-36 white voter registration advantage but narrowly backed Obama.
HD-98, which includes much of Uptown New Orleans, is even more of a rarity for the Deep South. The district has a 66-25 white registration advantage, but Obama won it 68-29. HD-98, represented by Democrat Neil Abramson, includes many of the neighborhoods around Tulane and Loyola universities (including mine). However, it's fair to say that students do not cast most of the votes, especially in non-presidential elections. There aren't many concentrations of white liberals in this part of the South, but this is one of them.