Louisiana voters sent a signal to the world on Oct. 20 when they elected 36-year-old Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal governor over three opponents in the primary. While Jindal takes his victory lap, more than 100 candidates for statewide and legislative offices remain locked in runoffs set for Nov. 17. Dozens more are in runoffs for local offices. It's not over yet, folks.
The lone remaining statewide runoff is the race for attorney general, which pits a Democrat against a Republican. Jindal says he's going to stay out of all runoffs, but that doesn't mean the GOP won't be asking folks to 'help Bobby" " or some message to that effect.
If you want to see if Jindal has coattails, or how much the 'R" behind a candidate's name means, look at the Oct. 20 results in the contests for lieutenant governor and attorney general. Country singer Sammy Kershaw may be a music star, but the Republican crooner mounted virtually no campaign against Democratic Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu " and still garnered 30 percent of the vote. Landrieu won easily with 57 percent. To Landrieu's credit, he won by even higher percentages in the GOP strongholds of Jefferson and St. Tammany " and got 5,112 more votes in Jefferson than Jindal.
Sometimes, at least, a good record trumps party labels.
The dynamics were only slightly different in the AG's race, where little-known attorney Royal Alexander, a 40-year-old former aide to Congressman Rodney Alexander (no relation), got 32 percent of the vote " just enough to edge out embattled Democratic incumbent Charlie Foti Jr. Another Democrat, DA Buddy Caldwell of Tallulah, led the field with 36 percent of the vote.
A closer look at those two races shows that Kershaw and Alexander got almost the same number of votes statewide " Kershaw, 375,667; Alexander, 395,452. No doubt much of that can be chalked up to GOP loyalty, but I suspect some of it also had to do with Jindal.
It will be interesting to see how Republican Alexander fares against Democrat Caldwell in the AG's runoff. The early betting is that Caldwell has the edge because virtually all of Foti's vote was Democratic. Then again, there's no telling what the turnout will be on Nov. 17 with no governor's race atop the ballot and no other statewide runoffs.
Even with a bigger Republican turnout, Alexander will have a tough time overcoming Caldwell's expected endorsements from local sheriffs and DAs who have known and worked with him for years. Alexander also has some ethical challenges relating to a set of emails in which he appeared to be shaking down potential contributors.
This is one runoff that Jindal may be happy to sit out.
Locally, voters in Orleans and Jefferson parishes will decide a bevy of legislative and local runoffs on Nov. 17. Legislative runoffs include those for Senate Districts 2 (eastern New Orleans and the Lower Nine), 5 (Central City and Uptown) and 7 (Algiers and Gretna), and House Districts 77 (St. Tammany and Tangipahoa), 78 (Jefferson), 79 (Kenner), 83 (West Bank), 91 (Uptown and Central City), 92 (Kenner), 94 (Lakeview and Mid-City), 95 (Carrollton and Black Pearl), 98 (Uptown) and 103 (St. Bernard and eastern New Orleans). In addition, there are runoffs in New Orleans for an at-large seat on the City Council as well as a judgeship at Criminal District Court. In Jefferson, the ballot also includes a runoff for district judge.
The council and judicial runoffs in New Orleans will turn on race, not party. Each contest pits a white candidate against a black candidate; all are Democrats. The council contest was called to fill the seat vacated by Oliver Thomas, who resigned after pleading guilty to federal corruption charges. For almost 30 years, New Orleans voters have elected one black and one white at-large councilmember. This race is for the 'black" seat " and control of the council.
All told, the Nov. 17 ballot will have runoffs for 40 seats in the House and 10 in the Senate. That's a lot, which means there are still a lot of reasons to pay attention " and vote on Nov. 17.