Only five Democrats were re-elected without opposition.
A total of 20 Senate seats, out of 39, are uncontested. That's astonishing in its own right, but probably due to two factors:
- Republicans look like they're going to bring the house, so Democrats quietly sat out a lot of contests because of atmospherics (see Damon Baldone in Senate District 21, for example)
- The bad economy is making fundraising very difficult, especially for a party in the position Democrats currently find themselves
Of the 19 that are contested, 10 feature Republican AND Democratic candidates. And of those 10, here are 5 to watch:
1. Senate District 20: Gary Smith (D) v. Garrett Monti (R)
This River Parishes District was formally represented by Senate President Joel Chaisson. Since Chaisson has taken a pass on any further statewide political office for now (retiring to the District Attorney's job in St. Charles Parish for now), Smith was considered his shoe-in replacement. Rep. Smith carries with him a respectable bank statement, and 12 years of experience in the legislature. To wit, he reported over $160k in February of this year. This number as undoubtedly increased in the past 7 months, leaving Smith in good financial position for a race. Furthermore, Smith has the explicit support of Chaisson, and all of the various connections that follow. However, Monti has already been hammering Smith on his insider status, and Vitter's LCRM will likely be spending in this race. Remember, all White Democrats are at risk, according to conventional wisdom.
2. Senate District 39: Senator Lydia Jackson (D) v. Greg Tarver (D) v. Jim Slagle (R)
This Northwest Louisiana race has setup written all over it. Tarver is a Af-Am former Senator and street player in Shreveport. He is challenging the smart, progressive, Lydia Jackson from what we could call the Black Right, i.e. the old school black politics. Tarver no doubt is pleased to see (or perhaps even had a hand in) placing a White Republican in the race in efforts to squeeze Jackson's crossover base away. With Slagle as a spoiler, Tarver's position as a community powerhouse could give Jackson fits as she tries to defend this seat from her very different predecessor. The politics of the past come back with a passion.
3. Senate District 14: Senator Yvonne Dorsey (D) v. Michael Jackson (D? I? R?) v. Christopher Toombs (R)
This race could be viewed through a similar lens as Lydia Jackson's, except for one element. The Republican in this race happens to be black, and this seat is a clear Af-Am majority district. Dorsey failed to produce much action in the Legislature, and there were rumors that Cleo Fields could enter this race. However, instead we get spoiler-extraordinaire Michael Jackson, of late the cause of Congressman Bill Cassidy in the 6th Congressional. Jackson worked hard as a State Rep and raised his profile through the redistricting process. His motives are always difficult to discover, although this race again looks like a setup to dethrone Dorsey. While not a powerhouse, she was a reliably solid Democratic vote on all matters. Jackson would not be. And, clearly, neither would Toombs. This race is another seat that could accentuate the Right-wing positioning of the legislature by replacing a solid D with a not-so-solid-sometimes-Democrat like Jackson. Progressives, beware.
4. Senate District 28: Senator Eric LaFleur (D) v. Paul Miller (R)
While Miller might not be the strongest candidate, LaFleur sits in a rapidly shifting Ville Platte-centered district and will face serious money from outside groups. The heart of Cajun uplands might have once forgotten about LaFleur's D (hell, they probably embraced it), but now it seems assured that the virulent anti-Obama mode in our state will sweep all the way down to the State Legislature (and it already has). LaFleur will have his work cut out in this race, and despite having the advantages of incumbency, won't walk to victory. LCRM and the GOP victory fund will play here heavily.
5. Senate District 24: Donald Cravins (D) v. Elbert Lee Guillory (D) v. Kelly J. Scott (D)
This D on D race is one we can get behind. Elbert Guillory, when he's not potentially being disbarred in other states, huffs the Louisiana Family Forum paint with a passion. A full YEAR before the census results were released, Guillory and the LFF released a map touting "Democratic Equity" that would be fair to African-Americans, mostly by packing them into super-black districts and reducing the total number of minority-majority seats. As an African-American himself, Guillory was the perfect Trojan horse to carry this awful plan into the public light. Needless to say, Guillory is a tool and a clown. What a joy it is, then, to see Mayor Don Cravins (father of the former State Senator, now Mary Landrieu employee) challenging Guillory for this seat. If Cravins is successful (and his popularity in the district is fairly high), we would be ridding ourselves of one of the worst State Senators on the Democratic ledger while gaining a powerful advocate for Democratic causes at the same time.
That's it for now. The Senate is where most of the action is, but this week we'll take a look at the statewide races and the contours of the the State House as well.
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