Monday, May 05, 2008

Louisiana Special Election

Coming on the heels of the Illinois 14th special election that saw the Democrats capture a long held Republican seat, Saturday saw Act 2 of this play as Don Cazayoux won the Louisiana 6th (full election returns here). Succeeding the retired Rep. Richard Baker, the district had been in Republican hands for over thirty years. The district was John Kerry's second best in the state (after the New Orleans based 2nd) in 2004, giving him 40%.

The 6th, which revolves around Baton Rouge and encompasses eight surrounding parishes is home to both Louisiana State and Southern Universities. What makes the district quite interesting demographically, and what must have played some part in the outcome, is that it was greatly affected by Hurrican Katrina. As thousands fled the New Orleans area, Baton Rouge became a popular settlement spot for displaced families. Thus, the population of the district has grown disproportionally in the past few years. Whereas the 2000 census put the African American population at 33% in the district, one must assume that it has gone up since Katrina. See a great Brookings Institution report on the Katrina diaspora, with attention to Baton Rouge, here.

Soon to be Congressman Cazayoux joins an increasingly large and influential group of newly elected Blue Dog Democrats. As the DCCC has shown a greater willingness to recruit and fund socially moderate and fiscally conservative candidates, seats that were once seen as out of reach--especially in the solidly Republican south--are now coming into play. We'll see another example of this in next week's runoff in the open Mississippi 1st district. Vacated by Roger Wicker upon being appointed to Trent Lott's old Senate seat, the district, while largely rural, does include the Memphis suburbs in De Soto county.

While one wonders about the durability of the Democrats' prospects in these seats, victories like these seem to give credence to the "50 State Strategy" that the party leadership has been advocating recently.

*Photo courtesy of Baton Rouge Advocate

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