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Election preview: 144 legislative seats up for election in Louisiana on Saturday
BATON ROUGE, Louisiana: On Saturday, Louisiana voters will go to the polls for the state's primary election. Unlike most states, Louisiana uses the blanket primary - under this system all candidates, regardless of party, run in the same primary. A candidate can be declared the overall winner of the seat by garnering more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary. However, if no candidate reaches this threshold, then a general election will take place on November 19, 2011 between the top-two vote getters. All 39 Senate seats and 105 House seats are up for election.
Currently, Republicans control both the Senate and House. Ballotpedia projects that Republicans will maintain control of both chambers.
|Louisiana State Senate|
|Party||As of November 2011||After the 2011 Election|
|Louisiana House of Representatives|
|Party||As of November 2011||After the 2011 Election|
Despite the fact that this election is the "first election” -- which is often the primary -- in Louisiana, this in effect could have a higher voter turnout than the November 19 election.
In 2007, the incumbent did not run for re-election to District 25 of the State Senate. There were three candidates in the October election: Dan Morrish (R), Gil Pinac (D), and Mark Abraham (R). In that election, a total of 34,876 votes were cast. Morrish and Pinac advanced with 11,145 and 13,437 votes, respectively. Pinac won the primary, in essence.
|Louisiana State Senate District 25 Primary, 2007|
But in the November 17, 2007 general election, Morris defeated Pinac 11,186-9,556. Fewer people turned out for the general election than the primary. There were 20,742 votes cast in the election that decided the ultimate winner.
|Louisiana State Senate District 25 General Election, 2007|
In essence, the October election in Louisiana functions like a general election while the November election is a runoff.
For our analysis of Louisiana elections, a slightly different methodology is used than for regular elections held in states like Mississippi and New Jersey. In Mississippi, there are 174 seats up for election. Because there are primaries for both parties, there were technically 348 possible primaries. But In Louisiana, there is one primary for all parties. So with 144 seats up for election, there are 144 possible primaries this Saturday.
Louisiana has both a primary -- this Saturday -- and a general election on Nov. 19. However, if a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary, then they are declared the outright winner and that seat will hold no general election. Because of that, for some races, the primary in essence is a general election.
When we counted the number of incumbents facing a primary, we considered a race a "primary” if there were at least 3 candidates running. A race that we consider "a contested primary” could in fact ultimately be the general election, because even if there are 3 or more candidates in a primary, one candidate could still become the outright winner and avoid the Nov. 19 election. If there are only two candidates running, then the only way that this race is a primary is if both candidates receive less than 50 percent because of write-in votes. Because that situation is so rare, in circumstances with two candidates, we consider that an incumbent facing no primary.
In summary these are the parameters for determining if a primary is competitive:
- One candidate = no primary competition
- Two candidates = no primary competition
- Three candidates or more = primary competition
Here are our major findings.
In the Senate 30 of 39 incumbents are running for re-election. Six current members, or 15.4% of the total senate seats, are term-limited, leaving them ineligible to run. Of them, 5 are Democratic state senators and 1 is a Republican. One incumbent, District 2 Democrat Cynthia Willard-Lewis, was displaced by the 2011 redistricting process. She is now running for election in District 3. Two chose not to run for re-election.
Eighteen incumbents -- five Democrats and 13 Republicans -- (46.2%) face no competition in the primary and are thus, barring unforeseen circumstances, guaranteed re-election. Additionally, two challengers, one Democrat and one Republican, face no competition.
Six incumbents (3 Democrats and 3 Republicans) will face primary opposition, they are as follows:
Of the 39 Senate seats, there are 8 total contested primaries.
- 6 contested Democratic-held
- 2 contested Republican-held
Thus, in the Louisiana Senate, it is likely that at minimum, 31 races will be decided on Saturday. However, if one candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote in any of the contested races, then there could be an even greater number of overall winners.
In the House 77 of the 105 incumbents (73.3%) are running for re-election. Ten current members, or 9.5% of the total house seats, are term-limited, leaving them ineligible to run. Of them, 5 are Democratic state representatives and four are Republican and one is Independent. Two incumbents, District 81 Republican John LaBruzzo, Jr. and District 101 Democrat Wesley Bishop, were displaced by the 2011 redistricting process. They are now running in Districts 94 and 99, respectively. Sixteen incumbents chose not to run for re-election.
Forty-three incumbents, 14 Democrats and 29 Republicans, (41%) face no competition in the primary and are thus, barring unforeseen circumstances, guaranteed re-election. Additionally, one Republican challenger faces no competition.
Nine incumbents (5 Democrats and 4 Republicans) will face primary opposition, they are as follows:
Of the 105 House seats, there are 27 contested primaries.
- 15 contested Democratic-held
- 12 contested Republican-held
Thus, there are at least 78 races that are virtually assured of being decided on Saturday. Based on trends from prior elections, a handful more might be as well.
|Comparing Contested Primaries of past two LA Elections|
**There are currently two Independent legislators. Thus, the figures above add up to 142 instead of 144.
The most prominent figure is total contested seats. In 2007, there were 69 uncontested primaries. In 2011, that number has jumped to 107. In essence, it appears that political energy and desire to run for office declined between 2007 and 2011 in Louisiana. Particularly with respect to seats held by Republicans, where the number of uncontested primaries increased from 27 to 65.
With such a large number of uncontested elections on Saturday, it seems to be a long shot for Democrats to reclaim either chamber -- and in fact more likely the Republicans will pick up additional seats.
Other Louisiana Elections Coverage
- Lieutenant Governor
- Secretary of State
- Attorney General
- Down ballot offices
- Ballot measures
- State Senate
- State House