Fighting back against GOP control in Louisiana, one seat at a time

Like most other southern states, Louisiana has gone from a longtime Democratic stronghold to majority Republican at both the local and national level. But the Bayou has never been a straightforward traditional Dixie state, instead existing as a unique multicultural marshland, so its political transformation has not entirely traveled the path laid out by the Nixon Southern Strategy.

Sure, Louisiana’s own shift was in part reflective of the national political realignment political, but that only set conditions for potential changes; it took several distinct events to actually put the forces in motion. Lamar Jackson, the progressive journalist and publisher of the Bayou Brief, outlined those events in a recent conversation with Progressives Everywhere, and first pointed to the Jungle Primary system put in place by Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards.

Edwards’s goal was to cut off opposition in partisan primaries, protecting what was then a Democratic majority. The then-governor did not see the political winds starting to change around him and he certainly did not see two decades into the future, when Republicans would push for constitutional changes that would further weaponize the new primary system.

Before he became infamous for his particular tastes in DC, David Vitter was a crusading state senator who successfully pushed for term limits in the legislature. After a three-term limit was enacted in 1997, the clock began ticking on long-time Democratic incumbents. By the mid-aughts, as some Democrats were seeing their careers expire, Vitter teamed with deep-pocketed donors to pick off others who still had some time left in office. He formed Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority, a big-money PAC devoted to buying Baton Rouge, and threw his weight around.

“They poured millions of dollars into this and they went to vulnerable, incumbent Democrats who were not yet term-limited, and they said to them, ‘If you switch parties, we will gladly not interfere with your reelection campaign. And if you don’t, we’re gonna spend $100,000 running a candidate against you,’” Jackson explained. “And so they peeled off a number of people in the State House and the State Senate that way.”

Republicans took over the legislature in 2011 and with the help of Gov. Bobby Jindal (remember him?) they gerrymandered the hell out of the state. It has largely been a decade and a half of disastrous Republican control, save for some positives that have come out of the first term of current Gov. John Bel Edwards, like Medicaid expansion. The state is ranked dead last or damn near that in just about every traditional measure of income inequality, with 20% of its people living at or beneath the poverty line, 49th in the nation in food insecurity, and dead last in gender income inequality.

The Louisiana Democratic Party has been in a bit of disarray, but given the national climate and Edwards’ popularity, they’re hoping for an upswing in this November’s elections. While Vitter’s old PAC (now known as Louisiana Committee for a Conservative Majority) is run by Attorney General Jeff Landry and just as brutal as ever, there’s finally some energy on the Democratic side there, as well. They’ve identified at least two dozen flippable seats and it could grow from there.

Democrats have a shot at getting an early start on the blue wave on February 23rd, when a special election is being held for a number of legislative districts in each chamber. Most of the seats are solidly controlled by one party of the other, but the Baton Rouge-area 62nd, up for grabs after the exit of longtime Rep. Kenny Havard, is a swing district.

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Huge win in the Wisconsin special election!

Democrat Caleb Frostman scored a major upset victory in the special election to represent Wisconsin’s 1st district in the State Senate. The local non-profit leader flipped a +17 Trump district that had been represented by Republicans for the last four decades. This is the second seat that Democrats have flipped in the heavily gerrymandered Wisconsin State Senate this year and it brings the partisan balance of the chamber to 18-15 in favor of the GOP. Taking control in Madison this November is looking more and more possible.

Progressives Everywhere is proud to have raised money for Frostman; you can find our original post about the race, from earlier this month, reprinted below. And you can give to more of our candidates at our ActBlue page!


 

Despite the fact that he ran a presidential campaign that made Jeb! Bush look like an exciting insurgent and ended before anyone other than debate moderators knew his name, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has been one of the leading crusaders in the modern GOP’s holy war on humanity.

In two terms, Walker has turned a traditionally progressive state into a prison for working people. Walker has crushed public unions, restricted access to abortion, installed onerous voter ID laws that likely flipped the 2016 election, refused to expand Medicaid, and slashed education spending. He’s done it all with help from a Republican majority in the state legislature, but as we’ve seen in several special elections this year already, the tide is beginning to turn.

Even though Wisconsin’s elections have been rigged through heavy, illegal gerrymandering, Democrats have been picking up seats in the state all year, which scared Walker to the point that he wanted to suspend special elections for open seats until November. The courts shot that idea down, and the next special election in Wisconsin will be held on June 12, with two more pickup opportunities for Democrats there for the taking.

Caleb Frostman is the Democratic candidate for the 1st District of the State Senate. It’s a district Obama won twice that then swung to Trump, so Dems have a good chance here, especially with a good candidate.

Frostman is from a working family, went to public schools, and has worked helping small businesses grow as the Executive Director of the Door County Economic Development Corporation. His issues page focuses on expanding access to affordable healthcare, investing in education, and creating a fair tax system that undoes the damage of Walker’s tax cuts for the rich. You can read about his debate with the GOP candidate, as well as some of the local issues, at the Green Bay Press Gazette.

The State Senate is now 18-14 in favor of Republicans, and a win here will bring us one step closer to restoring fairness to Wisconsin.
Ann Groves Lloyd is running for Democrats in the 42nd Assembly District. She is a local alderperson, serving the community already after spending her career working at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her family has deep roots in local politics, as her grandfather and great-uncle served in the state government as members of the storied Progressive Party. She’s focused on creating better jobs for her district, which has many people working in light industry and service jobs that don’t pay a living wage.

Click HERE to donate to Caleb Frostman and Ann Groves Lloyd on Progressives Everywhere’s ActBlue Page!