by Clancy DuBos
Mandeville state Rep. Tim Burns did his best to make the First Congressional Districts Republican runoff a real contest, but in the end the two candidates pretty much ran according to form. Metairie state Sen. Steve Scalise, who entered the race as the favorite and the anointed among state and Washington GOP insiders won the runoff by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent. Burns conceded Saturday night, but said he felt good about the fact that he started the race with only 4 percent in the polls and wound up making a real race of it.
To the extent that geography mattered, it favored Scalise, even though he hails form the less populous Southshore. He captured almost 83 percent of the vote south of Lake Pontchartrain and more than 36 percent of the Northshore vote. Scalises showing in the runoff was an improvement over his already impressive 30 percent showing on the Northshore in the primary, when he faced three Northshore candidates. The Northshore has a majority of the registered voters overall, and a majority of the Republican voters, but the vote did not break totally along geopolitical lines at least, not on the Northshore.
In the primary, the Northshore turnout was significantly higher than on the Southshore, but things evened out in the runoff. On Saturday, the Northshore accounted for 53.5 percent of the votes cast, which is very close the Northshores share of GOP voters in the district. Scalise thus succeeded in improving turnout among his geographic base in the runoff. That, combined with his significant crossover support among Northshore voters, accounted for his big margin on Saturday.
A parish-by-parish breakdown of the returns is available on the Secretary of States Web site here.
Looking ahead to the May 3 runoff, the conventional wisdom posits that Scalise will be a heavy favorite over Democratic nominee Gilda Reed of Kenner because the district has elected a Republican since 1977. However, this is the first time weve had separate party primaries for Congress since 1977 (and that race, like this one, was a special election held in the spring and summer), so theres no benchmark other than the notion that the district tends to vote conservative. In her remarks to WWL-TV Saturday night, Reed staked out what appears to be a campaign theme centered on efficacy rather than philosophy, telling the station that she can do more for the district as a member of the majority party because Scalise will be in the minority. She faces an uphill battle, but she appears ready and willing to hold her own in debates.