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Supreme Court order could hurt Louisiana’s Graves, Letlow or Johnson

One of the state’s safe GOP seats will be redrawn to boost Black voting power

Speaker Kevin McCarthy, left, and Rep. Garret Graves conduct a news conference after the House passed a bill to raise the debt limit on May 31.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy, left, and Rep. Garret Graves conduct a news conference after the House passed a bill to raise the debt limit on May 31. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

One of three House Republicans, including a top lieutenant of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, suddenly faces becoming much more vulnerable in next year’s election after the Supreme Court cleared the way for drawing a new Louisiana district map that boosts Black voters’ power.

The direct impact of Monday’s order — which lifted a hold the justices had placed on an earlier lower court ruling, effectively allowing the 2022 midterms to happen with challenged maps — remains to be seen.

But handicappers said one incumbent in danger of finding his now-safe Republican district redrawn to give Black voters a majority, or greater power to influence the result, is 6th District Rep. Garret Graves, a five-term incumbent who served as McCarthy’s point man on recent negotiations with President Joe Biden’s administration over raising the debt ceiling. Voters in the 6th District favored President Donald Trump over Biden by 30 percentage points in 2020.

Alternatively, the Republican incumbent put in danger could be 5th District Rep. Julia Letlow, who won a 2021 special election in the 5th District after her husband, Luke Letlow, was elected in 2020 but died before he took office, or 4th District Rep. Mike Johnson, a constitutional lawyer first elected in 2016. Trump’s margin of victory in Letlow’s district was also 30 points, while it was 24 points in Johnson’s.

The Louisiana order follows a June 8 decision in which the high court upheld a section of the Voting Rights Act and ordered a new map in Alabama, a state that, like Louisiana, has only one district where Black voters make up a majority.

In Louisiana, that’s Democratic Rep. Troy Carter’s 2nd District, which snakes from New Orleans to Baton Rouge, which is 61 percent Black and supported Biden over Trump by 53 points.

“GREAT news for Louisiana!” Carter tweeted after the court’s order was released Monday.

Carter, whose New Orleans-centered district is 61 percent Black, said the order “shows that in a healthy democracy fair and equitable representation matters, whether to the people of Louisiana or anywhere else in the world.”

The court said the case should proceed before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit in New Orleans.

Washington Rep. Suzan DelBene, chairwoman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, hailed the order, saying in a statement that it “sends a strong message that no state should be able to draw discriminatory districts at the expense of communities of color.”

Sharon Hewitt, the majority leader of the Louisiana Senate who is a Republican candidate for governor, chaired the committee that drew the district maps. She said the current district lines “were passed by a supermajority of the Legislature and comply with the law.”

“We respect the judicial process and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to return our Congressional map case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeal for further proceedings,” Hewitt said in a statement. “We look forward to having our day in court and ultimately moving beyond litigation so we can return our focus to helping the people of Louisiana.”

In Alabama, legislators have until July 21 to draw new congressional districts after the Supreme Court said the state’s existing map violates the Voting Rights Act. The National Redistricting Foundation and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund submitted a proposed map to the state’s reapportionment office ahead of a Tuesday hearing.

As expected, that proposal would keep the Black population in Democratic Rep. Terri A. Sewell’s 7th District, which is 57 percent Black now and went for Biden by 32 points. It would also redraw the district of Republican Rep. Barry Moore, according to AL.com

Mary Ellen McIntire contributed to this report.

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