There are plenty of lessons to be gleaned from the 130 elections on the ballot this past Saturday in 22 of Louisiana’s 64 parishes, Jeremy Alford writes in his latest column.
“Races big and small were won and lost by contenders, as is usually the case, and political transitions are underway across the state,” he writes, adding “there also were some important takeaways from those contests.”
Alford offers up the following five takeaways worth noting as the fall election season and 2019 statewide races approach:
- Voters continue to show very little interest in actually voting. “The Jefferson Parish sheriff’s race, for example, was the prize fight of this spring cycle, but the election only saw a turnout of only 30%, despite heavy spending and considerable attention,” Alford writes. “The special state House election anchored by Hammond turned out just 20% of voters while only 19% of registered voters participated in another House election held in the French Quarter area.”
- There’s a small but notable surge in no-party candidates. “For instance, the new mayor-elect of DeRidder, Misty Clanton, captured 76% of the vote in her city without having a party label,” Alford writes. “Her lone opponent, Mike Harper, also was a no-party candidate.” As partisan politics continue to breed disillusionment among the candidate class, Alford says we’re going to see more of this trend—and probably in bigger races, too.
- For the most intense elections, it’s still about who you know and who you don’t want voters to know you know. “In what was arguably Louisiana’s hottest race on Saturday, interim Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, a former state representative, topped opponent John Fortunato 52% to 48%,” Alford writes, noting Fortunato had backed the re-election of battered Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni, who became the third rail in the parish after he admitted to transmitting “improper texts” to a 17-year-old, among other accusations. “While Fortunato tried to walk his comments back soon after, it was still a turning point in the race,” Alford writes.
- Incumbency still matters, but not in every race. “In West Monroe, Republican Staci Mitchell smoked longtime Mayor Dave Norris, a Democrat, 60% to 38%,” Alford writes. “Norris’ defeat serves as a valuable reminder that incumbency is not sacred—at least not all of the time.”
- The rate at which special legislative elections are being held is nearing an unprecedented level. “There have been nine special elections for the Louisiana Legislature over the past 27 months,” Alford writes. “Using an imperfect average, that means voters have had to replace a legislator every three months this term, which is a little more than halfway over.”