There are so-called basics in Louisiana politics that shouldn’t be ignored, even if seasoned professionals do just that each and every election cycle.
It doesn’t matter who you think you are, who you may actually be or who other people believe you could become—certain conventions, habits and traditions are worth treating as bedrock. The Nov. 6 Election Day, along with its early voting components, was a terrific incubator for a few refreshers on some of “The Rules.”
Look, I don’t possess any ancient wisdom, and I’ve never seen a secret list or anything. But I know a rule when I see one, and I saw quite a few last week, including these:
- Every voter counts
Yeah, you’re saying you already know about this one.
But do you really? Do you know the pain of realizing that just a few more doors, maybe another mailer or some additional cash would have made all the difference?
The special election in Slidell’s House District 90, for example, advanced to a runoff without Democrat Sean Morrison, who was squeezed out of the second showing by a mere five votes.
In Junction City, Republican Toby Wilson missed the runoff for alderman by three votes and Kristy Miller missed a Basile alderman runoff by seven. Arnaudville’s mayorship was decided by seven votes as well, and 39 votes forced Joey Hester out of a council runoff in Shreveport.
- Money ain’t everything
Rep. Bob Hengens, R-Abbeville, is now Sen.-elect Hensgens, thanks to his win in Senate District 26 last week. Hengens had his signs and t-shirts ready to go before the seat was even cold. But that was only because the senator-elect knew he was going to have to win the hard way, which he eventually managed to do with 60% of the vote.
Long before he qualified, Hensgens had dedicated himself to running an “old-school, Acadiana, Dudley LeBlanc, grassroots, face-to-face, retail campaign,” said his consultant Gordon Reese of Innovative Politics.
Hengens low-key approach yielded just five targeted direct mail pieces and a handful of print newspaper ads. There were no polls, no TV spots and no radio buys. Yet it wasn’t exactly campaign money that was sacrificed. Hengens took a leave from his day job to campaign full time, hitting as many doors, diners and dancehalls as he could in a rural district that wasn’t exactly designed for walking.
- All politics are local (usually)
Turnout exceeded expectations and topped 48% last Tuesday, following a mild 30% to 35% forecast from the secretary of state.
The highly emotional, deeply invested and intensely partisan work-product—How would you describe it?—flowing out of the White House and Congress has been serving as tinder to political pyromaniacs of both mainline persuasions.
Our primary ballots were also pretty interesting this year, with high-stakes and historic local races; an unexpected Louisiana-wide election for secretary of state; a slate of constitutional amendments, including one that had a constituency raising and spending money; and a rare local option election for fantasy sports, of all things.
To put a finer point on it, the locals turned up the heat this cycle. The average turnout for the races for parish president around the state was 57%. Some mayoral elections were even higher, with 63% engagement in Abita Springs; 58% in Morse and Rayne; and 59% turnout in Iota.
- There are indeed second acts in Louisiana politics
As you may recall, this was the first fully-loaded municipal election cycle since the state Supreme Court cemented the right of convicted felons to run for office. So naturally, some former felons suited up and stumped away.
Former Ball Mayor Roy Hebron won his old job back last week despite a 2011 guilty plea to charges related to FEMA fraud. And former Jonesboro Mayor Leslie Thompson, who maintains his innocence despite a 2013 conviction, is headed to a runoff for his former seat.
Not so lucky was former Waterproof Mayor Bobby Higginbotham’s, who came up short with only 8% of the vote. Higginbotham was arrested in 2007 for “impersonating a police officer, criminal trespass and felony criminal damage to property.” He was later convicted on charges related to misuse of his town credit card.
Whether you appreciate these rules and recommendations or not, I wanted us to part on a lighter note until we meet again in this space.
So I combed through all of the races last week—Seriously!—and I kept an eye out for the most interesting nicknames on Louisiana’s 2019 primary ballot. It was the least I could do for an electorate with such an impressive midterm turnout. Plus it’s an important job and someone has to do it.
Congratulations to the winners of the ceremonial nickname contest:
- “Noonie Man” Batiste, candidate for the 2nd Congressional District
- ”Woots” Wells, Morganza mayor
- “Jackie Ju Ju” Vallare, Eunice alderman
- ”Cricket” Nelson, Arnaudville aldermen
- ”Da Da” Menard, St. Martin Parish president
- ”MaMa” Johnson, St. Martin School Board
- ”Spanky” Meche, Church Point mayor
- ”Tater” Gaspard, Pointe Coupee Parish council
Did I miss a name? Want to vote on your favorite? Hit me up at news@LaPolitics.com.