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."
The Lafayette superintendent insists the budget is illegal and vows to fight on.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.