La. Democrats have fallen on hard times
by will sentell
Capitol news bureau
January 11, 2013
State Democrats are all but sitting out yet another election cycle, and it hardly caused any ripples.
Louisiana’s 2012 political filing period ended last month.
Yet most of the news focused on how many Libertarians and even No Party candidates entered races, not on Democrats taking another pass during election season.
Republicans hold six of the state’s existing seven congressional seats.
Karen Peterson, chairwoman of the Louisiana Democratic Party, vowed in April to field challengers in each of the six districts left after reapportionment.
Democrats have said for months that U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, was vulnerable in the Shreveport-based 4th U.S. Congressional District.
However, no Democrat stepped up.
Democrat Ron Richard of Lake Charles entered the Lafayette-based 3rd U.S. Congressional District contest. Yet he is a longshot at best.
All the attention is on two GOP incumbents thrown into the same race because of redistricting — U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia.
Three other Republican incumbents are virtually assured of re-election with next to no credible challengers. They are U.S. Reps. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge; Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman.
What it all means is the steady slide of what was once Louisiana’s dominant political party continues, and will for the foreseeable future.
“I don’t think the Democrats have figured out how to solve some of the arguments that seem to move Louisiana voters,” said Pearson Cross, chairman of the Department of Political Science at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
In February 2011, Republicans took control of the final statewide office, which was the first such takeover since Reconstruction.
Two months earlier, the GOP got control of the state House of Representatives, another first since Reconstruction.
The state Senate is under Republican control.
Gov. Bobby Jindal coasted to re-election last year without a runoff.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is the lone Democrat elected statewide.
U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, is the lone Democrat in the state’s House delegation, and he too is virtually assured of re-election.
In another sign of the times, most of the state’s political speculation focuses on Republicans.
Would Jindal take a cabinet post if Republican Mitt Romney won the White House?
Will he challenge Landrieu in 2014, assuming she runs again?
Will Cassidy challenge Landrieu?
Will Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne run for governor in 2015?
Would U.S. Sen. David Vitter run for governor, odd as such a scenario seems?
Yet finding Democrats to speculate about, especially for statewide office, is no easy chore.
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, is making a name for himself as part of the loyal opposition in the Louisiana House.
Cross mentioned Richmond, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, state Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge and state Rep. Patricia Smith, D-Baton Rouge, as well as Edwards.
“But that is the face of the Democratic Party in Louisiana.” Cross said. “Largely African American and a smattering of old-style liberals from universities and urban areas.”
He said Republicans have won with arguments for small government, low taxes, more freedom from regulation and personal responsibility.
“Until the Democrats can easily articulate a persuasive new vision for governing they really won’t be able to compete,” he said.
Will Sentell covers state government policy for The Advocate Capitol news bureau. His email address is email@example.com.