It really didn’t matter much what happened in the Louisiana elections on Sunday. With all statewide offices but one in Republican hands, and both the state senate and house of representatives ruled by GOPers, attention is now beginning to focus on the lone elected Democrat statewide: three-term U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. Although she will not face the voters until 2014, Landrieu (lifetime American Conservative Union rating: 22.06%) is already the subject of rumors she will retire, and speculation is rampant about which of many ambitious Republicans will oppose her.
“Landrieu would clearly be in trouble if the state and national GOP could get their acts together for once,” noted Quin Hillyer, senior editor of the American Spectator and a Louisianan. “But given the past, long history of bumbling, with the national party having absolutely no clue about how Louisiana works, I’ll believe it when I see it.”
Roundup of Saturday’s Votes
But there were elections in the Pelican State on Saturday. With unemployment well below the national average at 6.9% and the state firmly holding the line on taxes, conservative Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal romped to reelection over nine opponents. Because Jindal rolled up well over a majority in the first round of voting (66%), he will not have to face a runoff next month.
In the only statewide contest to attract major press attention, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne secured a full-term over fellow GOPer and Plaquemines Parish (County) President Billy Nungesser Jr. Dardenne, named to the lieutenant governor’s post when incumbent Democrat Mitch Landrieu was elected mayor of New Orleans two years ago, won 53% of the vote against Nungesser, who gained international fame as the voice of the county most devastated by the BP oil spill. Nungesser had the backing of several prominent Louisiana Republicans—notably Sen. David Vitter—who considered Dardenne insufficiently conservative, and warmly recalled the challenger’s namesake-father, a past state chairman who was key to building the modern Republican Party in Louisiana.
Another statewide battle between two Republicans was averted when former one-term Rep. Joseph Cao opted out of the race for state attorney general against incumbent Buddy Caldwell, who switched from Democrat to Republican earlier this year. Cao, the first Vietnamese-American to serve in Congress, won in a spectacular upset over scandal-tarred Democratic incumbent Bill Jefferson in ’08, but was unseated last fall.
One little-reported but nonetheless intriguing side of the vote in Louisiana this weekend was the role Sen. Vitter attempted to play. In trying to become the political kingpin among Republicans, Vitter made a big effort to support Nungesser for lieutenant governor and Jim Tucker for secretary of state.
“And they both lost to fellow Republicans,” Hillyer pointed out. “As a test of Vitter’s strength, these elections show serious chinks in his armor. He made a bid to be the major domo in state Republican politics, and he lost. The yellow stuff all over his face is from raw and rotten eggs.”