Alford: Saturday’s elections bring few surprises


This past Saturday’s elections in Louisiana brought with them the first official day of spring, one new member of Congress and a couple of local upsets. The primary also gave us a pair of high-profile runoffs that will play out on April 24. 

Regarding these top races, we already knew there would be no pickups or flips for the mainline parties. The 5th Congressional District (in northeast Louisiana) and House District 82 (in Jefferson Parish) will remain Republican and the 2nd Congressional District will remain Democratic.

We also already knew that the winner in the 5th District—Julia Letlow has become the first Republican woman from the state to serve in the U.S. House—and the 2nd District—Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson are in a runoff—will both take office sharing some of the same political goals. Particularly, both of the new members will need to immediately engage with the rapidly-unfolding redistricting process, albeit for different reasons. 

For Letlow, concerns will need to be addressed about the population losses in north Louisiana. State lawmakers, to be certain, know some changes will have to be made to one or both of the northern districts. So a fight is coming, whether Congresswoman-elect Letlow wants one or not.

As for the next member representing the 2nd District, whether it be Carter or Peterson, they will instantly become a powerful voice on the subject of majority-minority districts. Not only will the freshman member have to protect their own district, there are many Democrats campaigning for a second majority-minority district in Louisiana. While that may be a non-starter in the GOP-led Legislature, a conversation will be had nonetheless. 

Carter or Peterson will also be tasked with finishing up their legislative duties in Baton Rouge. The runoff is slated near the sessions’s midpoint (it begins April 12 and ends June 10), meaning bills, projects and other priorities could be left hanging if the victor decides to head to Washington sooner rather than later. 

While there’s no guesswork involved in knowing which party will prevail in the 2nd District, those watching from Washington are curious which wing of the Democratic Party will come out on top. On the Hill, Peterson has been described as more progressive, whereas Carter is viewed as a dependable vote for the White House.

Meanwhile in Jefferson Parish, there’s still a state House seat up for grabs to replace former Rep. Charles Henry, who stepped down earlier this year. Most of the noise in that race has been made by Edwin Connick, a medical equipment sales rep with Medtronic, who is the first cousin of Sen. Pat Connick, and Laurie Schlegel, the wife of Judge Scott Schlegel. They both made it to the runoff this weekend, with Connick leading 40% to 36%.

Laurie Schelgel’s campaign went negative in the final week, dropping a mailer that attacked Edwin Connick as being a champion of the “political machine.” The mailer also suggested this to voters: “Jefferson Parish Can’t Afford Another Connick.” Edwin Connick, for his part, heads into the primary having tripled his opponent in spending. He has a bit of momentum, as evidenced by the direct mail piece that was meant to pick off voters; his name recognition is enviable in Jefferson Parish; and he has enjoyed a strong fundraising presence in Baton Rouge in recent weeks.  

In related ballot action:

  • District Judge Marcus Hunter, a former state representative, is in a runoff for the Monroe-based seat on the 2nd Circuit against J. Garland Smith after leading 44% to 32% this weekend. In a video message to supporters on the morning of Election Day, Hunter said, “I love y’all and there ain’t nothing you can do about it!”
  • In the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education’s District 4, Democrat Cassie Williams led Republican Michael Melerine into the runoff, 29% to 28%. Williams outpaced Melerine by 405 votes. Outside spending was said to be intense, but only produced a turnout of 9.7%. The runoff will likely be a bit milder, with the GOP holding an edge. 
  • There were 26 tax propositions on ballots in 13 parishes this weekend and—believe it or not—every single item passed.
  • Interim St. Landry Parish President Jessie Bellard, a Democrat, will get the job for real after beating Republican Dwain Butler, 59% to 41%.
  • Talk about a squeaker … incumbent Cameron Parish Assessor Scott Lavergne, who has no party affiliation, barely hung on against Republican David Conner. Lavergne was re-elected by 62 votes.
  • Former state Rep. Robert Billiot will become the next mayor of Westwego. He beat incumbent Mayor Joe Peoples. 
  • In what may have been the biggest local upset of the night, longtime incumbent Bossier City Mayor Lo Walker lost to challenger Tommy Chandler, 56% to 44%.
  • In yet another local upset, incumbent Bastrop Mayor Henry Charles Cotton was squeezed out of the runoff. It’ll be Betty Alford-Olive (29%) versus Clarence W. Hawkins (21%). The incumbent mayor missed the runoff by only 24 votes.
  • Nic Hunter, the first Republican mayor of Lake Charles, coasted to reelection with 74% of the vote against three Democrats.

Another election and another reminder that every vote counts. If you’re ready for some more electoral action, you’re in luck. The second round is in just four weeks.

Jeremy Alford publishes LaPolitics Weekly, a newsletter on Louisiana politics, at LaPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter, or on Facebook. He can be reached at JJA@LaPolitics.com.