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."
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
Dogs get back-to-school blues; mother pleads for release of journalist; ice bucket challenge and more national and international news for Thursday, August 28, 2014.
A group supporting taxpayer-funded private school tuition vouchers is appealing a federal judge's order that Louisiana must provide regular reports to federal officials on the state's voucher program.
The Discovery Channel has canceled reality TV star Will Hayden's popular "Sons of Guns" show after his arrest on an aggravated rape charge.
The LPSB will finally hear from the attorney it hired to investigate the superintendent at a special meeting Thursday at 4 p.m.
Authorities are investigating a report that a student there warned the principal of impending violence similar to that depicted in the movie "The Purge."
Saints cornerback Champ Bailey has played for more than a handful of playoff teams during a career that has seen him selected to 12 Pro Bowls.
Police say a 56-year-old Lafayette man walking behind a dump truck died when the truck hit him as it was backing up.
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is a proud papa of new baby girl.
The books on Louisiana's last budget year have been closed, but it took a bit of borrowing from this year to make the numbers work.
The Iberia Parish Coroner responded Monday to the attention surrounding the questionable shooting of Victor White III, a black man from New Iberia who died April 2 while in the custody of local law enforcement.
Two months after lawmakers agreed to create a $40 million higher education incentive fund, no decisions have been made about how to divide the money.
With Drew Brees back healthy, the New Orleans Saints are free to work on the little things that can make the difference between a Super Bowl run and something less.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and her lead GOP challenger Congressman Bill Cassidy are running close when it comes to money. Landrieu has $5.5 million to Cassidy’s $5.6 million in the bank.
With expectations mounting that Gov. Bobby Jindal will soon announce his campaign for president, attention is turning to not only who he will bring along with him but also what will transpire politically back home during the transition.
Seven of the 11 U.S. cities in a new ranking of “most dangerous diets” are in the Bayou and Lone Star states, but the ranking is more about poverty than fried oysters.
Lafayette police are investigating a fatal shooting involving an alleged burglar and homeowner.
Saints tight end Jimmy Graham got the message from the NFL. He's not dunking footballs over goal posts any more.
With qualifying over, the start of campaign season is official, and for the Lafayette Parish School Board, the race toward Nov. 4 will pit 20 candidates in battles for all 9 of the district’s available seats.
An abortion rights organization has filed the first court challenge to a Louisiana law that would require doctors who perform abortions to be able to admit patients to a nearby hospital.
U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister started his sign-up for re-election Friday the same as any other candidate, filling out paperwork and handing over cash to pay his qualifying fee. But he finished it quite differently, doused with ice.
The recent release of Victor White III’s autopsy report could spell trouble, as it tells a much different story of his death than the one told five months ago by the Iberia Parish Sheriff’s Office.
“Candidates for Congress and members of Congress spend between 30 and 70 percent of their time raising money to get back to Congress or to get their party back into power.”
Over the last four days of the trial against attorney Daniel Stanford, there’s been one notable absence from Judge Elizabeth Foote’s courtroom: attorney Bill Goode.
Saints quarterback Drew Brees and wide receiver Nick Toon are not on the same page yet, and time is running short for Toon to get it right.