Louisiana politics is becoming more conservative, more racially segregated and likely will remain Republican for a generation, even as other Southern states move toward the center, a political scientist told the Press Club of Baton Rouge on Monday.
However, despite the move to the political right, G. Pearson Cross, chief of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, predicted U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, would defeat U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, who he said is marginally more conservative, in the Dec. 8 runoff to represent southwest Louisiana in the U.S. Congress.
The two incumbent Republicans, both of whom describe themselves as very conservative, were thrust into a runoff after votes were counted in the Nov. 6 election. Louisiana lost a congressional seat because of slow population growth, requiring the two incumbents to run against each other.
Louisiana has become a one-party state, Cross told reporters Monday, which gives liberal white and liberal minority voters enough votes to decide which of conservative Republican factions will win elections.
Statewide, the Louisiana Democratic Party had 732,712 registrants who were black on Nov. 1 and 655,534 who were white, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Republicans registered 760,954 white and 23,610 black voters.
“What we’re seeing here is a split of the parties along racial lines,” Cross said. “We have a biracial party system.”
Other Southern states are seeing population increases that, demographically at least, indicate a political shift, Cross said. For instance, the increase in the numbers of black and Hispanic voters suggest that during the next eight to 15 years, Texas, Florida, even Georgia, could become safe for Democratic candidates, he said.
Cross said Landry, who won election in 2010, is the more natural politician, with an ability to craft a message that appeals to and motivates a specific electorate. Boustany has served longer and is popular among his constituents, he said.
“The real question is what does Landry have for people who are chronic voters, but who are not Republicans,” Cross said.
Last week, Ron Richard, the Democrat from Lake Charles who came in third in balloting, endorsed Boustany.
Richard polled 67,069 ballots or 21.5 percent of the 311,392 votes cast Nov. 6, according to the complete, unofficial count by the Secretary of State’s Office. Boustany came in first in the five-man race with 139,123 votes, or 44.7 percent. Landry polled 93,527 or 30 percent of the vote.
But for the 2nd Congressional District, which was specifically designed to provide minority representation, Louisiana U.S. representatives are all Republicans who won with 66 to 79 percent of the vote on Nov. 6.
“We’re going to be looking at Republican congressmen, Republican majorities for quite a while,” Cross said.