Only one of the four special primaries that took place in Louisiana on Saturday actually was decided without the need for a runoff — but in the end it is likely going to be the one race that will matter the least.
Meanwhile, one of the runoffs could create a headache for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
In the suburban New Orleans 1st district, the winner of the April 5 Republican runoff between state Sen. Steve Scalise and state Rep. Tim Burns will be heavily favored over college professor Gilda Reed (D) in the May 3 special election to replace former Rep. Bobby Jindal (R).
Reed took 70 percent of the vote among Democrats to avoid a runoff, while Scalise, who has the backing of much of the state and national party establishment, fell just 2 points shy of avoiding a runoff in the four-way primary.
Meanwhile, in the Baton Rouge-area 6th district, two state Representatives, Don Cazayoux and Michael Jackson, are headed for the Democratic runoff in a district that presents a more realistic opportunity pickup opportunity for Democrats.
On the Republican side in the 6th, former state Rep. Woody Jenkins and business consultant Laurinda Calongne will appear in the April runoff after Jenkins came within fewer than 100 votes of securing 50 percent in Saturday’s election — and avoiding the runoff. Jenkins is a well-known and somewhat controversial figure in the state who was the GOP nominee for U.S. Senate in 1996.
Cazayoux and Jackson, who have been allies in the state Legislature, had the closest race of the day with Cazayoux edging Jackson by fewer than 4,000 votes out of more than 47,000 votes cast in the Democratic primary.
But Cazayoux, who hails from the western edge of the district, spent about 10 times the amount of money that Jackson did during the abbreviated campaign that began when former Rep. Richard Baker (R) announced earlier this year that he was resigning his seat.
Cazayoux was recruited by the DCCC, before Jackson decided to run, and he has been promoted by the committee as someone who can flip Baker’s seat from the the red to blue column — though he has not been formally endorsed by the DCCC. But Jackson said Monday that he too hopes to get support from national Democratic leaders now that he’s made it into the runoff.
Jackson, who is black and is the vice chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, said he reached out to the Congressional Black Caucus for support before and after Saturday’s vote.
A CBC source said Monday that no formal endorsement effort has been brought before the caucus yet, but if CBC members do decide to get involved in the race they could be a powerful ally in a district that is 33 percent black.
It also could create an awkward situation for the DCCC, because Cazayoux is white.
Louisiana political watchers agree that both candidates will need to win crossover racial votes in order to secure the nomination, but Bernie Pinsonat, a pollster with the nonpartisan Southern Media & Opinion Research, said Monday that national Democratic leaders should be especially careful about antagonizing black voters if the CBC were to get behind Jackson.
“If the national Democratic Party alienates the blacks in Louisiana they will have no party,” Pinsonat said, adding that a Democratic dust-up along racial lines in the 6th district could have ramifications for Sen. Mary Landrieu’s (D) tough re-election fight this fall.
“It is impossible for [Democrats] to ever win another Congressional race [in Louisiana] without the black vote,” he said.
Jackson said he’s more focused on geography than race in the runoff.
Jackson said he expects to be well-positioned in the coming election because he was able to win his home parish of East Baton Rouge — the district’s most populous — despite the fact that two other candidates in the race also hailed from the parish. Jackson won East Baton Rouge with 9,833 votes, and Cazayoux came in second with 8,018 votes. But Jackson said he is more likely to pick up the 14,000 voters who backed other candidates in East Baton Rouge Parish on Saturday.
Meanwhile, on the Republican side, Calongne now will be forced to go head-to-head with Jenkins after some Republicans say she flew under the radar in a special race that saw Jenkins and former Baker chief of staff Paul Sawyer trade attacks. Sawyer took 23 percent of the vote to Calongne’s 25 percent. So far Calongne has loaned her campaign more than $200,000 of her own money.
Sawyer wouldn’t say Monday whether he plans to endorse Calongne in the runoff but did say Jenkins is a polarizing candidate and that “if Woody Jenkins wins the nomination I am very concerned about Republicans holding on to this seat.”