Louisiana Spotlight for November 12, 2012

While national pundits comb through the election returns for trends and tidbits, the results in Louisiana highlight some themes as well.

People here are pro-gun and pro-term limits. They support their incumbent congressmen, and they have less interest in the long list of constitutional amendments lawmakers put on the ballot year after year than they do in other races.

While the election results offered few surprises in Louisiana, they reinforced that the state is overwhelmingly red.

Louisiana’s voters definitively chose unsuccessful Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney over Democratic President Barack Obama. Romney got 58 percent of the vote here, compared to 41 percent for Obama. Libertarian Gary Johnson received 1 percent.

Obama won only 10 of the state’s 64 parishes, including Caddo, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, Iberville, Madison, Orleans, St. Helena, St. James, St. John the Baptist and Tensas.

Romney received 344,000 more votes than the president, out of the nearly 2 million votes.

Maybe a bit unexpected, Obama’s support ticked upward slightly over 2008, when he got 40 percent of the vote in Louisiana, compared to 59 percent for Republican John McCain.

Some themes from Louisiana’s election returns:

  • Congressional incumbents had it pretty easy, attracting no well-financed opposition. Five of the state’s U.S. House members won re-election without difficulty with districts drawn to help keep them in power and dissuade opposition. The only two incumbents who have a rough race, Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry, are battling each other because Louisiana lost a congressional seat after the latest federal census. Their 3rd District race won’t be decided until Dec. 8.
  • Democrats may have declining numbers and elected offices as the state votes increasingly Republican, but they still influence election outcomes. Just ask Boustany and Landry. Democratic trial lawyer Ron Richard, of Lake Charles, spent only a tiny fraction when compared with his GOP opponents, but his candidacy as the lone Democrat vying for the congressional seat rallied support. Richard received 22 percent of the votes, ensuring that the 3rd District race would be forced into a runoff. Boustany got 45 percent of the vote Tuesday night. Political watchers believe Richard’s candidacy kept Boustany from winning the district seat outright. Landry should send Richard a thank-you note.
  • Voters around Louisiana may be divided on many issues, but not on term limits. With Tuesday’s vote, school board members across all of Louisiana’s public school districts will be limited to three consecutive four-year terms. Proposals to enact term limits on the boards passed overwhelmingly, winning easily in all school districts where they were on the ballot, reaching at least 70 percent support and topping 80 percent backing in some areas. Expect more term limit ideas to be recommended.
  • Louisiana residents are fiercely protective of their right to bear arms. Voters overwhelmingly agreed to set a tougher standard for restricting the use of weapons and to remove a provision that gives the Legislature explicit authority to limit concealed handguns. The constitutional amendment won support from 73 percent of voters. Expect it to be a model that the NRA will push in other states.
  • Participation dropped off as voters moved down the hefty list of complex constitutional amendments. Lawmakers put nine items up for consideration, including some proposals that were arcane, highly-specialized or only applicable to one municipality. While more than 67 percent of registered voters in Louisiana cast votes in the presidential race, participation fell to 55 percent of voters for some of the amendments on the ballot.

Melinda Deslatte covers Louisiana politics for The Associated Press.