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An average American that has some thoughts on politics, culture, and society with a conservative and Catholic twist.

Location: Louisiana, United States
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Sunday, October 01, 2006

Thoughts On Last Nights Louisiana Elections

Last night was not a high profile or voter attention grabbing Louisiana election like some of recent history. Still however there are some interesting lessons and and trends that I think can be observed.

Signs of Trouble for New Orleans and Louisiana-
First the bad news. Voter turnout in New Orleans was again really bad. Turnout across the board ,even in areas with hot mayor's races, were down. However, the turnout numbers in New Orleans were extremely bad. Turnout State wide appears to have averaged in the lower to mid 20's. In Parishes where there was a hot mayor's race one can add about 10 to 15 percent to that figure. This is not that shocking because of the nature of the State wide offices on the ballot. The problem is that in Orleans Parish and St Bernard Parish turnout was only 11 percent and 9 percent in those respective Parishes. Ouch. New Orleans had only an Absentee vote of around 1100 votes. When one looks at the surrounding Parishes that were also devasted by Katrina and Rita it shows a disturbing trend. For instance turnout was 19% in Cameron, 29% in Vermillion, and 36% in Plaquemines Parishes. The Orleans turnout in this race is a extension of low turnout we saw in the hotly contested mayors races of this year. I find that this is the clearest sign that the future population of these parishes will be much lower than feared. The November elections will be important to watch. Both St Bernard and Orleans Parishes will be involved in two very contested Congressional races. If we don't see numbers increase then there are problems.

The problem is simple . It all relates to the US Census. First New Orleans appears to be way below the numbers to receive the Urban grants and aid that cities all over the Country receive. Where will that be made up? The big concern that will be felt state wide is our represenatation in the US Congress. Louisiana like many of its sister states with similar demographics have weak Congressional delegations. Before Katrina and Rita we were bracing ourselves for the reality we would be losing one Congressional seat because of population loss. Now it appears we might have to brace ourselves for the possibility of losing two. That could be a disaster.

Sec of State Race-
This race of course is going into a runoff. As expected Heitmeier made the runoff because of the fact he was the only Democrat running. More on Heit later. The real intriguing race was between the two Republicans running. That is Sen Jay Dardenne and Mike Francis. Jay Dardenne of course emerged the victor between the two.

Mike Francis-
Mike Francis ran a good campaign for his first try at a major elective office. Kudos to him for putting his name in the ring. However his campaign had problems and the political minded folks who care about this politics game should take heed of them. First, Francis seemed to be running in the tradition of the angry right wing. That is throw the bums out, get rid of the career politicians, and lets get "real" republicans in there and not hese Louisiana "rinos". A few problems that Francis had with this approach.

First, that alone will not get you the win. Francis could have ran fewer ads about "family values" and more about the job he was running for. Francis talks about corruption and reform , but the problem is he never related it to the Secretary of State's office. The Secretary of State's office regulates business regulations as to corporations, handles elections, and run museums. This office has been pretty much under Republican control for the past 8 years except for the short time after the former occupants tragic death. If there is corruption then what needed to be reformed? It appears not much since Francis couldn't come up with anything in his political ads. Many voters I talked to said of his ads were asking what the hell abortion had to do with the Secretary of State's office.

Second there is the issue of negative campaigning. One gets a sense that voters thought that Francis was being a tad unfair to Republican Sen Dardenne. The abortion issue being a prime example where the Francis forces tried to portray Dardenne as being pro choice and a liberal. It seems that very conservative Baton Rouge sent that message when it came out to defend their own State Senator at the polls. We saw that also in other cities. Even in areas where Francis was strong in. Looking at the absentee votes in North Louisiana one sees a stronger showing by Francis than he had on election day. I think the negatives ads and what voters sensed as unfair attacks hurt him in the final weeks. Jay's very negative ad in the closing week did not hurt him. In a sense voters realized Dardenne had a ton of mud thrown at him and didn't mind if he struck back.

Finally the best thing Francis can do is to unite the party and get baehind Dardenne. I expect he will.

Jay Dardenne-
I am very impressed with Jay Dardenne campaign efforts. The only thing he could have done better was to campaign more in North Louisiana. I am wondering if perhaps Repubs should have ran Jay against Dem US Senator Mary Landrieu in two years instead of for Secretary of State. A few major points about his electoral success last should be noted.

Black Vote -
Good grief Jay did great with this segment of voters that are so Democrat leaning. The biggest surprise of the night was how well Jay did in Orleans Parish itelf in the black areas. He was running 16 to 19 percent in some areas. Very Jindal like numbers. In areas of Baton Rouge , Dardenne got 40 to 45 percent of middle class Black neighborhoods that vote Dem in a big way!!! The Republicans need to find out how he did this.

What would be productive is to figure out how Jay did so well in the Black community and can it be duplicated. Is it (1) Jay actually campaigned in those areas instead of just promising to do it next election. If so how did he do it
(2) Did the Dems just take it for granted
(3) Blacks are becoming more open to voting for conservatives or Republicans
(4) Are we seeing traditionally black political organizations working with republicans in this post Katrina World.

I don't buy that Jay bought off the "blacks" as some folks are saying in their own un PC way because that machine is pretty dead and two that doesnt explain how he was getting 40 to 45 percent in affluent Black neigborhoods last night in BR.

Conservative or Rino?
Jay had the rino charge leveled against him in this campaign. I think he dealt with it in a effective matter. It appears that people from the conservative Parishes such as Jefferson, Livingston, St Tammny didn't think that charge was valid. It also appears that despite aggressive campaigning by Francis in the North, Jay was also able to counter some of the early damage caused by those allegations.

The Jewish Question-
There was no Jewish question of course. My line of thought on this shall be in an additional post since it is of interest on more than a local or state level.

Heitmeier and the Democrats-
Senator Heitmeier as expected got into the runoff as being the only true Dem contender in the race. However I must admit his campaign aswell as the State's Dem party effort as to this race is pretty strange. Speaking to a Democrat last night, he informed me that Heitmeier took too long to get his camp together. I believe that is the understatement of the year. Heitmeier of course is from the New Orleans area. The results from Orleans Parish speak for themselves-

Orleans Parish-
Dardenne 12,688
Francis 1,744
Heitmeier 12,856

That sucks for a Louisiana Democrat. Similar results can be found in other Parishes that should have been very pro Heitmeier He had better result sightly in areas where there were active mayor's races. It will be interesting to see how his numbers improve with the Congressional race occuring in Orleans and the race involving Melachon that will be on the Novmeber ballot.
As a Republican I am on the outside trying to look in as to what is happening in the Dem Camp. Therefore I am just making educated guesses to be honest. Is this a sign of of party in trouble? Perhaps it is but we shall see in the runoff.

Dept Of Insurance Race-
We should thank God anyone wanted to run for this office. Talk about a office where all you get is gripes. Especially in this Post Katrina and Louisiana world. My hat is off to all three people in this race.
Louisiana should say a collective prayer this race is over. Because of the Liberatarian in this race it wasn't clear we were not going to have a runoff till about 1 am in the morning. Doneleon manage to win a avoid a run off by 500 votes. This race had two Republicans. They were acting Dept of Insurance head Doneleon and State Senator David Cain. To show you how unpopular this office is even to politcos the Dems couldnt find someone to run for it. S. B. A. Zaitoon was the Libertarian. Here is the breakdown.

James David Cain, R
James J. "Jim" Donelon, R

S. B. A. Zaitoon, L

Cain almost pulled this one out. The problem was in my view the negative ads. I am not against negative ads. There is often more truth on negative ads than positive ones. Howeverever there is a line that one can not cross when negative ads become a liability. I suggest when Donelon whent to court to stop them on the basis of libel that the line was crossed.

Like the Secretary of States race it is a crying shame the ads did not focus on how the heck we are going to get out of this mess. IF Cain had ran a few more of those ads I think he would have run. Cain has his own negatives that are well known so I won't go into them here.

From a political standpoint this was a pretty fun race to watch. Cain had a North Louisiana political strategy that almost worked. How the traditional Dem black vote panned out was fascinating. It appears that Cain had a slight edge with blacks in BAton Rouge and in North Louisiana while Doneleon had it in other areas.

Metro New Orleans advertising saved him as well as it appears a good bit of the Republican party. I think he appeared to be more Republican than Cain. TO give him credit he got the votes needed in the hurricane ravaged parishes. Could it be that voters thought he was doing the best job any human could possibly do in this situation?

Since Zaitoon gor 11 percent in this race I should give him his due. There seemed to be a big effort by the blogs and others to have people to support him. However, I don't view this as a big moral victory for this esteemed third party. Zaitoon basically got the protest votes and the vote of those who couldn't stand either guy. If Zaitoon presented a Libertarian view of how to deal with our insurance crisis , I didn't hear it. I suspect most of his voters had not either. That is a shame in a sense. The post hurricane insurance crisis is a big one with no easy answers. If he had some answers or possible solutions I would loved to have heard it.

Overall Trends in LA Politics-
The Secretary of State Race is already being spinned the wrong way. It is being viewed as Republican moderates versus the religious right. Let me suggest that what is viewed as the religious right is actually populist rethoric and views. This has often been identified with democrats. However the Republicans have their own version of it. I find religion has precious little to do with it.

I think both Francis and Cain in a more traditional sense ran in this tradition. Both failed in their ultimate objective. Francis though is the race too look at. When I think of the Francis campaign the first feeling I get is anger. Throw the bums out!!!! US against Them!!! They are all Crooked!!! Well goodness with that theme no wonder why these campaigns come off as too moralistic. Someone made a good point as to these defeats last night. This does not bode well for a future Foster Campbell Governor's run. It also seems to indicate that Louisiana citizens are looking for reasoned approaches and solutions to our problems. Does not mean that partisan poliitcs is out the window? Of course not. Party politics is still needed to help clarify different approachs and to foster a competition of ideas. However I am convinced for the time being the Mike Francis approach is not going to appeal much to voters in the forseeable future.

Const Amendments-

I am impressed . Louisiana passed what was needed. Let us give ourselves a hand.

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