Louisiana Political Update

November 22, 2015

Louisiana’s political campaign season finally came to an end Saturday evening as the general (runoff) election settled three contests for statewide office as well as a handful of district races. Two races for the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE) wrapped up as well as four state Senate seats and 14 seats in the House of Representatives. Following is an overview of the results.

Governor
State Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-­Amite, defied early odds to defeat U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-­Metairie, by a score of 56 percent to 44 percent of the vote. Governor-­‐‑elect Edwards notched a significant win for the state’s ailing Democrat Party, which has been reeling from losses in statewide races since 2008 as well as a loss of majorities in both chambers of the legislature over the past several years.

Governor-‑elect Edwards rode a growing wave of anti-­Vitter sentiment exacerbated by souring voter attitudes toward Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal (who is an intraparty rival of Sen. Vitter’s). A significant amount of energy went into an Edwards campaign that highlighted Sen. Vitter’s “serious sin” from years ago along with a barrage of ads trumping up Edwards’ bio as a West Point graduate. Edwards, who severely lagged Sen. Vitter in fundraising until a couple weeks prior to the runoff, was able to characterize Vitter as the candidate who would usher in a “third term for Gov. Jindal” while relentlessly attacking Vitter’s integrity.

Vitter and his allies were unsuccessful in swaying enough voters to buy in as they painted Edwards as an “Obama liberal.” Vitter’s strategy, interestingly enough, was a successful formula last year when now U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-­Baton Rouge, defeated Louisiana’s only statewide elected Democrat (at the time), former-­‐‑Sen. Mary Landrieu of New Orleans. However, Gov.-­elect Edwards proved handily that issues involving “statewide state” office is clearly different
this year than “statewide federal” office a year ago.

For what it’s worth: Cassidy defeated Landrieu 56 percent to 44 percent, which is the same percentage of the vote that separated Edwards from Vitter this year. It’s interesting to note that in this year’s governor’s race Vitter received 206,450 fewer votes than Cassidy received a year ago. On the other hand, Edwards received 85,650 more votes than Landrieu picked up a year ago. In other words, it’s clear that many conservatives were fired up a year ago but stayed home or switched votes this year. The Edwards camp’s depiction of Vitter as a vindictive politician with a checkered past likely had plenty to do with shaping that voting behavior (whether accurate or not it clearly kept voters at bay). Vitter’s negative perception was also compounded by voter fatigue with Gov. Jindal, whose favorability continues to sour (recent polling indicated Jindal had a 70 percent unfavorable rating). Of course Vitter’s campaign also received a hit when the fourth place finisher in the primary (outgoing Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, R-­Baton Rouge) endorsed Edwards across party lines. From the onset, Edwards positioned himself as a moderate, and he closed the deal even harder as the
runoff was underway; his messaging was highly successful. Congratulations to Edwards for mapping out a strategy for success and for winning the hard fought race.

Vitter confirmed what was expected to be the case when he indicated last night that he will not seek re-­‐‑election to his U.S. Senate seat next year. That race will begin to take shape early 2016 and is expected to get crowded quickly.

Gov.-­elect Edwards went to work today, and he announced term-limited state Sen. Ben Nevers, D-Bogalusa, will be his Chief of Staff. More information on transition team and key staff appointments is expected to develop in the coming week.

Lieutenant Governor
Former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser, R‐‑Belle Chasse, picked up 55 percent of the vote and defeated Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden, a Democrat. Nungesser ran for this post four years ago but lost to Jay Dardenne. As a reminder, the Lieutenant Governor’s position in Louisiana does not serve as the President of the Senate; rather, it is in charge of the state’s Culture, Recreation,
and Tourism agency. It has, however, served to create more name recognition and as a springboard for other offices.

Attorney General
Former one-­term Cong. Jeff Landry, R-­New Iberia, defeated incumbent Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, R-­Tallulah, 56 percent to 44 percent. Caldwell has been in the position for the past eight years but has been hammered by the business community for what has been described as doling out of contracts to select trial lawyers who were also his major campaign donors. Caldwell swapped parties from Democrat to Republican before being reelected to his second term in 2011. Landry was heavily favored by the business community whereas Caldwell was heavily supported by trial lawyers.

BESE

District 4: Tony Davis, R-­‐‑Natchitoches, narrowly defeated his opponent Mary Johnson Harris, R‐‑Shreveport by picking up 51 percent of the vote. Harris is serving as the interim incumbent in this seat. Davis, who is 34 years old, is the president of the Natchitoches Chamber of Commerce and was supported by LABI.

District 6: Kathy Edmonston, R-Gonzales, defeated Jason Engen, R-­Baton Rouge, by picking up 57 percent of the vote. Incumbent member Chas Roemer, R‑Baton Rouge, opted out of running for another term; he supported Engen (as did LABI).

Senate

District 7: In the race to replace Sen. David Heitmeier (who unexpectedly opted out of running for re-­election), former New Orleans City Councilman and state Rep. Troy Carter, D-­New Orleans, defeated term-­limited state Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-­New Orleans, 57 percent to 43 percent.

District 12: Beth Mizell, R-­Franklinton, defeated Mickey Murphy, D‑Bogalusa, 58 to 42 percent, to replace term-limited Sen. Ben Nevers. Mizell operates a cattle farm and enjoyed heavy support from the business community. Mizell narrowly lost to Sen. Nevers four years ago.

District 36: Ryan Gatti, R-­Bossier City, defeated current state Rep. Henry Burns, R-Haughton, by a razor thin margin (50.59 percent to 49.41 percent…or 325 votes). Rep. Burns gave up his House seat with a term of eligibility remaining to seek this Senate seat, which was vacated by term-­limited Sen. Robert Adley, R‐Haughton. Gatti is a trial lawyer by trade.

District 38: In what was one of the bigger surprises of the night, Rep. Richie Burford, R‑Stonewall, lost to John Milkovich, D-­Keithville. Milkovich, a trial lawyer, picked up 52 percent of the vote. Rep. Burford was a steady supporter of pro-business issues in the House, and like Rep. Burns, he had a term of eligibility remaining in the House. However, he declined to run for that post and opted instead to attempt to replace term-limited Sen. Sherri Buffington, R‑Keithville.

House of Representatives

District 29: Metro Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards, D-­Baton Rouge, defeated Edmond Jordan, D-‑Brusly, 59 percent to 41 percent. Edwards replaces term-­limited Rep. Regina Barrow. The population of this district heavily favored the East Baton Rouge candidate, Edwards (Jordan is from across the river in West Baton Rouge Parish).

District 32: Incumbent Rep. Dorothy Sue Hill, D-­Dry Creek, held on to her seat by defeating Biscuit Smith, R‑DeRidder, by a ten point margin. The business community heavily supported the challenger with quite a bit of dough, but in the end Biscuit just didn’t rise to the occasion. He really got pancaked. I guess he was in too much of a jam. Okay…enough.

District 34: Incumbent Rep. A.B. Franklin, D-­Lake Charles, narrowly defeated former state representative and Judge Wilford Carter, D-‑Lake Charles. Rep. Franklin received support from the business community and Carter received heavy trial lawyer support.

District 40: Political newcomer Dustin Miller, D-­Lawtell, defeated Donovan Hudson, D‑Opelousas, by securing 56 percent of the vote. Rep. Ledricka Thierry, D‑Opelousas, vacated this seat to run for the state Senate, but she was unsuccessful in that venture.

District 45: Jean‑Paul Coussan, R-­Lafayette, picked up 51 percent of the vote to defeat André Comeaux, R‑Lafayette. Coussan is an attorney involved in the construction industry and title work. He will replace term‑limited Rep. Joel Robideaux, R‑Lafayette.

District 51: Terrebonne Parish Councilwoman Beryl Amedee, R‑Gray, defeated incumbent Rep. Joe Harrison, R-Napoleonville, in a close race; Amedee picked up 52 percent of the vote. Amedee, also a small business owner, received heavy support from Louisiana Association for Business and Industry PACs.

District 53: Incumbent Rep. Lenar Whitney, R‑Houma, was handily defeated by trial lawyer Tanner Magee, R-Houma, as Magee picked up 61 percent of the vote. Rep. Whitney was a one‑term legislator who last year ran unsuccessfully for Congress.

District 63: Barbara West Carpenter, D-Baker, defeated Ulysses “Bones” Addison, D‑Baton Rouge, a former Baton Rouge councilman and failed legislative candidate. Carpenter won with 58 percent of the vote. Carpenter replaces Rep. Dalton Honore, who gave up his House seat to run for the Senate (but unfortunately lost that bid).

District 66: Incumbent Rep. Darrell Ourso, R-Baton Rouge, was defeated by political newcomer Rick Edmonds, R-Baton Rouge. Edmonds received 52 percent of the vote. Ourso was elected in a special election earlier this year for the seat vacated by former Rep. Hunter Greene, R-­Baton Rouge. The business community supported Edmonds, who is the vice president of the Louisiana Family Forum and a pastor at Bethany Church.

District 69: Former Louisiana Deputy Commissioner of Insurance Paula Davis, R-­Baton Rouge, defeated Baton Rouge councilman Ryan Heck, R‑Baton Rouge, 55 percent to 45 percent. This race was to replace Rep. Erich Ponti, R‑Baton Rouge, who resigned from his post this summer due to a job opportunity. Davis and Heck received co-­‐‑endorsements from many of the state’s pro‑business
organizations.

District 72: Former state Rep. Robby Carter, D-­Greensburg, beat Hunter Carter, D‐‑Greensburg, by garnering 67 percent of the vote. Robby Carter is a trial lawyer. This seat was vacated by Rep. John Bel Edwards (soon to be Gov. John Bel Edwards).

District 99: Jimmy Harris, D-New Orleans, defeated Ray Crawford, D-New Orleans, 61 percent to 39 percent. Harris is a former aide to U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond. Rep. Wesley Bishop, D‑New Orleans, vacated this House seat in order to run for the Senate (to replace Sen. Ed Murray, D‑New Orleans); Bishop was successful in that venture.

District 100: John Bagneris, D-­New Orleans, defeated Alicia Clivens, D-New Orleans, by picking up 55 percent of the vote. Bagneris replaces term‑limited Rep. Austin Badon, D‑New Orleans.

District 103: Incumbent Rep. Ray Garofalo, R-­Meraux, defeated St. Bernard Parish Councilman Casey Hunnicutt, D‑Meraux, by garnering 52 percent of the vote. Garofalo was heavily supported by the business community whereas his opponent was heavily supported by trial lawyers.