Democrats feel the crunch because the Ninth Ward, the largest and by far the most populous ward in the Crescent City, once provided a reliable bloc of 30,000 black voters always ready and eager to mobilize on behalf of a strong Democratic candidate, particularly one who was opposed by a right-wing Republican. Many electoral victories ' local, regional and statewide ' have been chalked up at least in part to black voters in the Ninth Ward.
For example, the area was a political lifeline for Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2003 and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in 1996 and 2002. In the wake of Katrina, however, Blanco and Landrieu ' along with other Democratic statewide hopefuls ' have often been written off by pundits and GOP cheerleaders.
Evidence of their imminent demise was expected from the Nov. 7 election returns, and official results from the secretary of state may soon reveal problem areas for Democrats. But the data also will divulge a newly identified and significant bloc of black voters in north Louisiana, voters the Democratic Party could count on to make up for the displaced New Orleans base. These newfound Democratic voters could make Louisiana's northern parishes the new base the party needs in the next two years.
One Democratic beacon Nov. 7 was the election of state Rep. Cedric Glover, an African-American Democrat, as mayor of Shreveport. Voter turnout was expected to be in the low 40s, but by that Tuesday evening it was closer to 53 percent. Elliott Stonecipher, a Shreveport demographer and political analyst, estimates black turnout was 15 percent higher for the runoff than the primary ' and possibly higher than any other time in recent history. In the end, 65,821 people voted largely along racial lines, with Glover winning by 4,529 votes.
Hordes of cash were dumped into get-out-the-vote efforts, indicating the stakes may have been higher than just a mayoral contest. Landrieu's political action committee donated $2,500, and the state party spent in excess of $30,000 on the final day alone, paying 75 election workers $50 or more each to get people to the polls. Buses were employed to transport voters, and thousands of dollars were spent on advertisements on urban radio.
It's a classic formula proven successful in New Orleans for generations and, more recently, in Baton Rouge. "But I've never seen it on this scale in Shreveport," Stonecipher says.
If the entire Shreveport region can be managed in coming years the way it was this fall, Democrats could be in decent shape for statewide runoffs, Stonecipher adds. If done in concert with all of Caddo Parish, which has nearly 66,000 black voters, as well as Ouachita (30,827), Rapides (22,064) and a few others, the party could find its old magic again. "Simply by adding 50,000 or so new black votes just from these cities and parishes, along with the black vote still in New Orleans, it's hard to argue that the disadvantage we believed Blanco or Landrieu faced necessarily exists," Stonecipher says.
There is indeed a thriving base in central and north Louisiana, says Danny Ford, executive director of the state Democratic Party, and it has been neglected for way too long. "Strategically, we've relied too heavily on New Orleans in the past," he says. "The strategy isn't that New Orleans is gone, but we have to find a way to work with what we have. It's all about turnout. Once you know where the voters are, it's strictly a numbers game." Black votes can be turned out in Shreveport and Alexandria, he says, but the party must also focus on reconnecting with rural, white voters.
Turnout in black communities is precisely what's on the agenda of Ernest L. Johnson, president of the Louisiana chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The NAACP has 30,000 members statewide. Johnson says his organization is identifying 10,000 precinct captains to handle massive GOTV efforts across Louisiana for the 2007 gubernatorial race. Presently, 1,000 have been brought onboard to help duplicate some of the Democratic successes in north Louisiana this year. "Our belief is we just need to do a better job of turning the vote out," Johnson says. "And we're going to do that."
Another factor that may help Democrats is an undercurrent of racial polarity in various parts of the state. In the Shreveport mayor's election, race was a central issue as blacks rallied behind a movement to put the first African-American in that office. Earlier this year, Alexandria nearly elected a black mayor in another hard-fought contest.
In the Third Congressional District, failed candidate state Sen. Craig Romero, a Republican from New Iberia, sent African-American voters a mailer trying to link neo-Nazi and former Klan leader David Duke with Congressman Charlie Melancon, a Napoleonville Democrat who served briefly in the state House with Duke. Blacks in that district are still complaining about Romero's tactic.
Racial tension in Louisiana politics is nothing new, but are these types of incidents building toward something? Right now racial undertones in state politics are subtle but noteworthy, says Johnson, who teaches civil rights at Southern University. Stonecipher agrees, adding that racial currents shouldn't be ignored. "This is the elephant in the room," he says, "and we better pay attention to it."
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Monday, April 21, 2014:
Monday's Blogs from the Bog!
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”
Education Superintendent John White says a continued push to try to keep Louisiana from using tests associated with the Common Core education standards are creating "a state of chaos" for public school teachers.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's plan to use $210 million in surplus and one-time money to help balance next year's budget received the backing Thursday of the State Bond Commission, support that was needed for the maneuver to work.
State wildlife and fisheries agents have arrested a 39-year-old man accused of stealing crawfish.
An East Feliciana Parish lawmaker has jettisoned his proposal to make it harder for a condemned prisoner to appeal a death sentence.
Senators advanced a proposal Wednesday that would let the governor remove New Orleans-area levee board members for violating what he considers to be public policy, despite concerns it would introduce political meddling into state flood protection.
The Lafayette City-Parish Council on Tuesday will vote on a resolution that if approved would clear the way for a December ballot proposition asking voters to approve a 1-cent sales tax parishwide to help fund the construction of a new terminal at Lafayette Regional Airport.
Just days before the fourth anniversary of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, the Coast Guard has moved cleanup of Louisiana's coast to a new phase, allowing BP to end its "active" efforts in the area.
Legislators still must leave their guns at the door of the Louisiana Capitol.
Sen. Fred Mills may have an "R" behind his name, but his actions in the Louisiana Legislature transcend the established boundaries of his party.
The Louisiana House overwhelmingly rejected a repeal of the state's unconstitutional anti-sodomy law Tuesday.
The Louisiana Senate sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal and the oil industry Tuesday, agreeing to void a lawsuit that a south Louisiana flood board filed against more than 90 oil and gas companies for coastal damage.
Acadian rep notifies would-be supporters that an April 25 fundraiser for the embattled U.S. rep won’t go on as planned.
While it isn’t all too unusual for public bodies to have hired security present during meetings, the LPSB’s push to do so is arguably a response to the antics of one board member.
“I’m running. Why would I be raising all this money? Just to have to return it to people?”
With incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu watching from afar, and with a united Democratic Party in her corner, the fight to get the GOP officially behind Congressman Bill Cassidy is gaining just as much momentum as it is hushed controversy.
15th Judicial District Judge Durwood Conque has announced that he will not seek re-election after 27 years on the bench.
The controversial standardized tests are set to be used in third-grade through eighth-grade public school classrooms next year.
The Louisiana Senate has agreed to prohibit unmanned aircraft from flying over chemical plants, water treatment systems, telecommunications networks and other items considered "critical infrastructure" in Louisiana.