‘LaPolitics’: Political professionals are forced to navigate map uncertainty


As the courts continue to wade through our congressional map drama, some donors, consultants and others who spend or make money on Louisiana politics are in limbo waiting to either cut checks or get them. “It’s hard for people to give you money when you don’t know what the district is,” says consultant Roy Fletcher, who adds that political professionals should be prepared to pivot, especially as we inch closer to the July qualifying period.

That said, money isn’t exactly staying in pockets for all candidates. Sen. Cleo Fields has raised in excess of $600,000 for his bid for Louisiana’s second Black-majority district—even if he doesn’t know yet what that district will look like. While Fields said he would run in the district recently created by his Senate and Governmental Affairs Committee but was rejected by the courts, he’s unsure if he’ll be a contender if the district is yet again reshaped.

Then there’s U.S. Rep. Julia Letlow. The recently rejected map would require her to make inroads into the Capital Region, where U.S. Rep. Garret Graves is trying to get his footing as well. As Graves is figuring out whether he’ll run against Fields in the rejected district or in his own district as it’s composed now, Letlow is adjacent to the action. “It would be the ultimate in political bad manners, if you would start running ads in the Baton Rouge media market, or making appearances in Baton Rouge, if it’s not certain what that 5th Congressional District, or even that 6th District, is going to look like,” says John Couvillon of JMC Analytics and Polling.

Dillard University professor and Fox 8 political analyst Robert Collins says some consultants have been either avoiding long-term contracts or including contingencies that could void deals impacted by legal decisions. “Everyone knew that this was a possibility,” Collins says. “Nobody was putting all of their eggs in one basket, in terms of having only one client in this cycle. So I don’t think it’s going to be as disruptive as people think.”

For months now, Graves has been telling the political world that the new congressional map the Louisiana Legislature passed this year, which would make him the underdog of the cycle, would not hold up in court. That prediction came true last week, though Graves’ reprieve may be temporary. 

Attorney General Liz Murrill says she will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, and the original plaintiffs have filed an appeal as well. Secretary of State Nancy Landry says she needs a new map by May 15 to be ready for the November election.

Collins predicted the time crunch will likely lead to voters and political professionals using the current congressional map in November. But once all is settled, he adds, Louisiana will likely have a second majority-Black district. 

Mary-Patricia Wray of Top Drawer Strategies agrees with Collins about the ability of political professionals to be ready for the cycle, despite legal interruptions and uncertainty. “One great thing about the Constitution is that it guarantees there will be an election, with one map or another,” Wray says. “That certainty provides all the guidance political professionals truly need: Be the one writing the menu, so you won’t appear as a side dish to the new democracy being served up with consistency every two years.”

 —THEY SAID IT: “Our case is a really good example of a situation where you’re damned if you do, you’re damned if you don’t.” –Attorney General Liz Murrill about the redistricting court case, to WBRZ