Most election cycles produce some measure of change. Oftentimes the changes are imperceptible. Not this time. The 2007 elections have the potential " we'll know soon enough " to rewrite Louisiana history. Which, of course, puts more pressure than ever on our post-election review of the victors and the vanquished. So let's begin with
1. The Louisiana Republican Party " Bobby Jindal's victory in the governor's race was, of course, the Big One, but the GOP also scored major gains in the state Legislature, most notably in the House, which will now be led by Republican state Rep. Jim Tucker of Algiers. Elsewhere, Republicans now hold five of seven statewide offices, whereas four years ago they captured only one. What a difference four years " and a major hurricane " can make.
2. Business Interests " The Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI), as usual, played a major role in legislative elections. And, as usual, LABI succeeded a lot more than it failed. For example, the business group's PAC supported 59 successful House candidates and 21 Senate winners. LABI's success rate (84 percent in the House and 88 percent in the Senate) will not only allow the business lobby to remain a heavy hitter during and between legislative sessions, but it also should make LABI a valuable ally of Governor Jindal.
3. Southeast Louisiana " While New Orleans has lost lots of registered voters in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, the greater New Orleans area will wield lots of clout in the new Legislature. The new Senate president (Joel Chaisson II of St. Charles Parish) and the new House speaker (Jim Tucker of Algiers) both hail from this area, as does new Governor Jindal. That will be huge at budget time.
4. Paul Connick " The Jefferson DA was a key local backer of candidate Buddy Caldwell in the attorney general's race, and his last-minute endorsement of Donnie Rowan put Rowan over the top in a very close Jefferson judicial contest. On top of all that, Connick's younger brother Patrick won an open House seat in Marrero without opposition. Overall, the DA is in great shape as he heads into his race for a third term next fall.
5. Harry Lee " In death, the legendary Jefferson Parish sheriff finally grew some coattails. Lee's handpicked successor, his longtime right-hand man Newell Normand, beat three opponents in the primary with 91 percent of the vote " a margin Lee himself never won in life. No doubt a big part of Normand's lopsided margin was a spontaneous voter tribute to the late sheriff.
6. Trial Lawyers " How is it that trial lawyers and business interests both won? Overall, business interests fared very well in the governor's race and in legislative contests, but Buddy Caldwell's victory in the AG's race and Joel Chaisson II's capture of the Senate presidency likewise give trial lawyers some key footholds.
7. Term Limits " Voters in all but a few cases (most of the exceptions are in the New Orleans area) turned away longtime, term-limited legislators' bids to transfer from the House to the Senate and vice versa. The result is new faces, which are exactly what proponents of legislative term limits wanted. Lawmakers who have four years tenure or less in the House and Senate now constitute a solid majority, and that could have a dramatic impact on legislative dynamics as well as public policy. This development also gives Bobby Jindal and other reformers a big jump on issues like ethics reform, budget reform and other items on the reform agenda.
Which brings us to
1. The Democrats " The Louisiana Democratic Party rebounded in the runoff with Buddy Caldwell's victory in the AG's race, but Caldwell's win over the wholly unqualified Royal Alexander was practically rote. Overall, the Democrats went from holding six of seven statewide offices after the 2003 elections to just two now. It's going to be a long march toward 2011, and they'll have to get Mary Landrieu re-elected to the U.S. Senate in the meantime " although Landrieu isn't nearly as vulnerable as many Republicans think.
2. Bill Jefferson " State Rep. Jalila Jefferson-Bullock's loss in her bid for the state Senate seat that launched her dad's career means there is no second-generation Jefferson in the game. This defeat comes just two months before Dollar Bill goes on trial for 16 corruption counts in northern Virginia. Plus, Orleans Parish District Attorney Eddie Jordan's resignation four weeks ago, coupled with Jefferson's support of losing at-large council candidate Cynthia Willard-Lewis, means his machine " and his influence " are at an all-time low. Only three of the 11 candidates on Jefferson's Progressive Democrats ballot won this year.
3. Mayor Ray Nagin " Once again, Hizzoner can't seem to pick a winner. His two most high-profile endorsements were Jalila Jefferson-Bullock (he was passing out fliers for her on St. Charles Avenue on Oct. 20) and Cynthia Willard-Lewis, both of whom went down to defeat on Nov. 17. In fact, the only candidate he backed for re-election, state Sen. Ed Murray of Lakeview, didn't need Nagin's help in the least. (Worse yet, Nagin's 'Crescent City Recovery Ticket" listed Murray as running for House District 4 instead of Senate District 4.) Now, he has a white-majority City Council, and a more independent council regardless of race, and council members are poised to take over the city budgeting process. Nagin is about to get a lesson in checks and balances and the separation of powers. He won't like it.
4. Black Political Organizations " Ray Nagin knocked local black political groups on their backsides when he beat them in the mayor's race of 2002 (except for BOLD, which supported Nagin then), and ever since they've struggled to get back in the game. Former state Sen. Jon Johnson's defeat in the Senate District 2 race was another failed comeback bid by the once-powerful Ninth Ward political organization SOUL. Most of all, the abysmal black voter turnout in New Orleans on Nov. 17 showed just how far the organizations, whose stock in trade is supposed to be black turnout, have fallen. Black turnout in the city on Nov. 17 was only 13 percent. If it had been just 2.5 points higher, Cynthia Willard-Lewis would have won her at-large council race against Jackie Clarkson. To paraphrase Woody Allen, 90 percent of politics is just showing up.
5. Teacher Unions " The state's most powerful union lost several key contests, particularly the governor's race. Teachers backed Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell for governor, and he ran fourth. Locally, they threw everything they could behind former state Sen. Jon Johnson's grudge match against Sen. Ann Duplessis, but the 'Bad Mama Jama" carried the day.
6. Motor Voter Law Proponents " Making it easy for people to register to vote doesn't necessarily make it more likely that they will actually vote. The Motor Voter law, designed to achieve (or at least approach) universal registration, did indeed get more folks registered " but it did not drive them to the polls.
7. The Old Guard " The Edwin Edwards Era is officially over. It ended not when the Silver Zipper went to jail, but when his grip on the Louisiana Legislature finally loosened to the point where you could count his old allies on one hand. Sen. Joe McPherson's failed bid to become Senate president was perhaps the clearest sign yet that the Old Guard has been put out to pasture. Sure, some members of that club survived the elections, but their numbers and their influence have waned.