Louisiana Redistricting: What Happens to Baton Rouge?

Even though the population of New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole has declined significantly since Hurricane Katrina, the 6th district, which includes Baton Rouge, has gained population since 2001. The population of the 7th district, situated to the West has grown. Yet, because the state as a whole will likely lose a Congressional district, both of these districts will likely need to be redrawn to include more people. Republicans in the state legislature will try to make sure that the 6th district is redrawn to include more conservative voters and make it a safe seat. Having Baton Rouge in the 6th district gives the district a large Democratic base, and Democrats controlled the 6th Congressional district as recently as 2008. Democrats in the state legislature could try to redraw the 6th district to increase the number of Democrats and possibly make the seat even more competitive in the future. This post, the fourth in the series on Louisiana, looks at the 6th and 7th districts.

6th Congressional District-Bill Cassidy (R)
6th Congressional District-Bill Cassidy (R)

The 6th Congressional district includes the state capital of Baton Rouge. The district currently has the largest population of any district in Louisiana with around 701,200 people. The district has grown by around 62,700 people since 2001 when its population was around 638,425 (the approximate population of each Louisiana district after redistricting in 2001). The population is 62.2% white and 35.5% African American, with 16% of the population living below the poverty line. John McCain won the district in 2008 with 57% of the vote, and George W. Bush won it in 2004 with 59% of the vote. The Cook Partisan Index for the district is +10 Republican.

Republican freshman Dr. Bill Cassidy won his first term in 2008 by winning 48% of the vote. He beat Democratic incumbent Don Cazayoux by 8%

Congressman Bill Cassidy
Congressman Bill Cassidy

and was greatly helped by independent Michael Jackson (an African American state legislator) who split the African American vote with Cazayoux. Cazayoux had won a special election for the seat earlier in 2008. Because of Cassidy’s close election in 2008, the National Republican Congressional Committee has placed him in the Patriots program for vulnerable House Republicans. Cassidy realizes that he could be a Democratic target in 2010, and he currently has $680,000 cash on hand for his 2010 reelection campaign.

What could happen to the district? The district will need to add people, but as the most populated district in the state, it will have to add the least number of people and is unlikely to be absorbed or split among other districts. Baton Rouge gives the district a strong Democratic base. A map of the 2008 Presidential election results shows that St. John the Baptist parish and St. James parish, both to the South of the district, went for Barack Obama in 2008. The Democrats in the state legislature might like to try to redraw the district to include parts of either of these counties to make the district more moderate or even tilt Democrat. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal likely would realize what was happening and veto that plan. Republicans might try to expand the district to the Southeast into solid Republican areas of the 3rd district (not St. James parish or St. John the Baptist parish) to make the district more Republican for years to come.

7th Congressional District-Charles Boustany (R)
7th Congressional District-Charles Boustany (R)

The 7th Congressional district is in the Southwest of the state and borders Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. On his website, Congressman Boustany says that the 7th district is “the heart of Cajun Country” and proudly points out the importance of the oil and natural gas industry to the district as 25% of all liquefied natural gas in the United States goes through the 7th district. The district has grown by about 20,800 people since 2001 (when it was around 638,425) and currently has around 659,300 people. The population of the district is 72.1% white and 26.7% African American, with around 17.3% of the district living below the poverty line. John McCain won the district with 63% of the vote in 2008, and George W. Bush won the district with 60% of the vote in 2004. The district has a Cook Partisan Index of +14 Republican.

Republican Congressman Dr. Charles Boustany is in his third term in the 7th district. He won in 2008 with 62% of the vote. Boustany has been a

Congressman Charles Boustany
Congressman Charles Boustany

leader in the Republicans fight against the Democratic health care reform bill, and he gave the nationally televised Republican rebuttal to President Obama’s health care speech to a joint session of Congress in September. On his website, Boustany emphasizes his knowledge of health care as a doctor and his work on energy policy considering the importance of oil and natural gas to his district. He currently has $440,500 cash on hand for his reelection in 2010.

What could happen to this district? The district will need to add at least 40,000 new people and possibly considerably more (see previous post on the likely number of people needed per Louisiana district in 2011). The Democrats in the legislature might attempt to make the district Democratic by trying redraw it to include Baton Rouge, but considering that the district is currently only 27% African American and votes solidly Republican, making the 7th district Democratic would be harder than a district like the 5th or 6th. Republicans would probably like to expand the district to the East into the 3rd district (especially if that is the district that is divided and abandoned in 2011) because that region is solidly Republican. The district could also be expanded to the North into either the 4th or the 5th district to stay solidly Republican. Boustany is likely to have a safe Republican district after redistricting in 2011.

Tomorrow’s post will conclude our series on Louisiana redistricting by summarizing the analysis and looking at various possible scenarios for redistricting in 2011.

*A few notes on statistics. Population numbers and demographic numbers (and percentages) that are listed as “current” or “2008” are from the 2008 American Community Survey by the Census while 2004 or 2005 numbers are from the 2004 and 2005 American Community Surveys respectively. While these numbers are very recent, the American Community Survey does have a larger margin of error than the traditional census conducted every 10 years. Learn more about the American Community Survey on the Census Bureau’s website.

All numbers (both demographic and campaign financial data numbers) are rounded down to the nearest hundred for simplicity.

2008 and 2004 Presidential election results for each district are from the 2010 Almanac of American Politics by the National Journal Group.

Unless otherwise noted, pictures come from each member’s official House of Representatives website.

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