One of the factors in the special election for Louisiana’s 6th District that no one seems to have said much about is the Katrina factor. There are two aspects to this. First, in the last three years there has been an influx of people from New Orleans into the Baton Rouge area, most of whom are black and likely to vote Democratic and some of whom probably contributed very directly to Cazayoux’s win this week. The aftermath of Katrina has likely changed the demographics of the district enough in a short time so that Bush’s
55% 59% in 2004 is misleading as an indicator of Republican strength in the district, and that 2004 figure already shows some erosion of support from 2000. It may be that the 6th was already trending towards the Democrats and was given an extra push in that direction by the population changes after the hurricane. Second, there is probably some localised hostility to the Republican Party because of its association with the administration’s failures in relief efforts and because Mr. Bush quashed the plan proposed by the outgoing Republican House member, Richard Baker, for federal recovery assistance. Add to that Jenkins’ serial losing streak in the state, and then consider that Jenkins lost by just under 3,000 votes and that turnout for this odd Saturday election was probably unusually low. (Louisiana Secretary of State reported 23.5% turnout.) IL-14 flipped on a Saturday special election, too, and that makes me think that these results may not be as meaningful as they at first appear.
Update: Jim Antle says, “But there have been too many examples of this trend to explain away.” But there haven’t been “too many examples of this trend.” There hasn’t even been a trend. There have been two examples this year of special elections that led to a seat flipping from Republican to Democratic control, and both can reasonably be explained in similar ways (with the added factor in Illinois that association with Obama is a plus for House candidates, not a liability). Quin Hillyer provides the appropriate corrective.
Second Update: Connected with the Katrina factor, the 6th district was already 33% black, which the influx of new residents after the hurricane increased.
P.S. Another thought occurred to me–these days Barone is always going on about Obama’s strength in state capitals, so it is possible that the 6th district, which includes a state capital and a sizeable black population, is unusually friendly territory for Obama, making ad campaigns that try to tie Cazayoux to Obama seem even more short-sighted and useless. The same does not apply to Mississippi’s 1st, where Childers has been quickly fleeing from any association with Obama, which is significant in itself.
Third Update: Jim Antle follows up on his earlier post, and I see that I have misread him when he is talking about trends. He was referring to the secular anti-GOP trend that is very real, and no doubt he’s right when he says that “[t]here are good reasons to believe that Democrats will add to their congressional majorities in November.” There certainly are good reasons to believe this, and I think we are in agreement that the Democrats are going to expand their majorities considerably. There are nonetheless fewer reasons to think that this increased majority will include the gentlemen from Louisiana and Mississippi.