Bernie Burns: Louisiana Elections Via Eyes of Pinsonat
Written by  // Monday, 31 October 2011 14:17 //

Bernie Burns

Is Louisiana smoldering with anger?

Hardly.  Despite the anger throughout the United States, based upon recent election results, the state's political scene is hardly on fire, says Bernie Pinsonat. 

The Louisiana pollster, who this fall managed the campaigns for now-Republican and most likely future Senate President, John Alario and Democrat Gary Smith, responds to questions about the recent elections about Governor Jindal, who won by a landslide vote.   

Now, this edition of "Bernie Burns":

1. Looking back at the recent elections, what are the major themes one can extract?

The democrats continue to suffer because President Barack Obama remains very unpopular in Louisiana.  No democrat occupies a statewide elected position and I do not see this changing any time soon! Democratic state legislators are now the minority party at the state capitol and will not control either the senate or house. The speaker of the house will be a republican and the senate president will also be a republican.

 What an amazing reversal of fortunes in just four years! President Obama is certainly an anchor sinking the fortunes of democrats, but this trend started before he was elected president. The leaders of the democrats in the house and senate are both trial lawyers. Why would any small business in Louisiana feel comfortable supporting or contributing to democrats?  Republican oriented PAC’s have made life miserable for democrats seeking reelection and difficult for a democrat attempting to defeat a republican in an open seat contest – small businesses are the no limit credit cards for these PACs and the Republican Party.  Just ask the incumbent BESE members who had enormous sums of money spent by the business community to defeat them. Trial lawyers and teacher unions are firmly in control of the Democratic Party. The tens of thousands small businesses in Louisiana will continue to fund republicans and literally give next to nothing to democrats! What do I know about this subject? I managed the campaigns for then democrat John Alario (2007) and this cycle democrat Gary Smith. Gary beat his republican opponent sixty to forty. White voters in Gary Smith senate district will vote against President Obama next year by eighty plus percent and yet Gary still won as a democrat. All of Gary’s fund raising efforts came from his efforts not from any party’s effort. Same for Senator Alario – in both of these campaign I saw tons of money pour into the republican opponents efforts from PAC’s and the republican party. 


2.  What happened to the pay raise issue? This spring, close to 90 percent of the persons polled considered the issue to be very important.  Were the only casualties Jim Tucker and Joe Labruzzo? 

The pay raise issue turned out not to be the silver bullet that would kill off most incumbents. Representative Labruzzo loss was due to a number of factors. Voters do not tolerate spending lots of your campaign funds for personal expenses / add the pay raise issue and you lose reelection. The pay raise issue definitely hurt Jim Tucker – most were surprised he lost, including me. I was busy with other elections; did not see all the ads these campaigns were producing. Never heard any buzz that either candidate produced a TV ad that was a must see. Apparently Schedler TV was just good enough to win and Tucker’s T V was definitely not good enough to win. Below the governor –the other statewide elected positions are totally media campaigns, not much else counts. Three high profile democrats were targeted by republicans – two won reelection as democrats and one beat his republican opponent to win the senate seat occupied by Joel Chaisson – a democrat and current senate president. All voted for pay raise and all three won. Republican Senators Bob Kostelka and Dale Erdy voted for the pay raise and both incumbents beat republican challengers.  The pay raise was a nuisance – but this vote should not have caused anyone to lose.

3.  Why did incumbents do so well?  Are the voters satisfied with their elected officials?

 The survey Southern Media did for the Republican Party showed the legislature receiving a very favorable impression from voters. This is a highly unusual number for the legislature as a whole: by the large the number of legislators not having opponents; definitely confirmed the poll numbers. Most Louisiana voters are preoccupied with the budget grid lock in Washington – Louisiana is a paradise compared to the disaster occurring in Washington D. C.


4.  What role did the Democratic Party play in the elections, especially the top state offices?

The Democratic Party played little or no role in the elections of the top statewide offices. We did not have one well financed democratic candidate run for a statewide office. The Democratic State Party was involved in the house and senate races, but compared to the Republican Party’s unlimited money to support republicans – their role is negligible. There was lots of discussion about African American voters being the difference maker for a particular republican. In both the Lt. Governor and Secretary of State elections a nearly even split of the African American vote gave no candidate a big advantage.  The white democrats in the legislature maintained their numbers as most democrats beat republican challengers. The democrats won enough to avoid republicans gaining a super majority in either chamber. Louisiana remains a very red state when voting on US Senators and Congressman – same applies for statewide elected officials. Two thirds of all white voters in Louisiana identify themselves as republican – no matter how they are registered. I cannot imagine any democrat winning statewide as long as so few whites identify with democrats.  At the local level white voters overwhelmingly identify as republicans – but they are not overwhelmingly conservative, especially below the I-10 corridor where Catholics voters dominate. This is why the Louisiana Legislature is not controlled by ultra conservative republicans. Governor Jindal understands this fact and does not slash and burn the budget as some of the republicans in the house favor. 


5. People are calling the election, the Jindal mandate.  It is true he had no legitimate competition.  If I am not mistaken, he won with 2/3 of the votes counted which accounted for approximately 9 percent of the registered voters.  One third of those who did vote preferred a no-name or anyone but Jindal.  Is it fair to say that he has a mandate to govern?

It is not about fair – it is a fact! Most legislative candidates that were polling found that Governor Jindal’s popularity was very high with all white voters. He is a republican and is not going to get high job ratings with African American voters. Governor Jindal’s base is white voters and they give him high job approval ratings. Because lots of voters did not vote is pretty much normal when an incumbent elected official is popular and faces limited opposition. High turnout elections occur when the voters are mad and energized to throw the bums out. Besides the turnout has nothing to do with Jindal’s so called mandate. Republicans dominate every area of state government and will now control the legislature plus the senate president and the house speaker are controlled by republicans. You can argue all day whether Governor Jindal has or does not have a mandate from the voters – but right now he has enough voters, enough republican legislators to be referred to as one the most powerful Louisiana Governors ever. Because Bobby Governor Jindal is still relatively young and definitely has aspirations for higher office – I do not think he will carelessly abuse his power and allow major screw ups to injure his image and popularity and thus end his political career.  

Bernie Pinsonat, Louisiana Elections, Louisiana poltics, Obama, democrat, republican, Alario


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