BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - After gaining a two-thirds majority in the Senate on Oct. 12, Republicans now must flip two seats and retain another five in the House to gain historic control over state government during the November runoff.
If they secure a two-thirds majority in each chamber, Republicans could override the governor’s veto and pass constitutional amendments by themselves.
Veteran pollster, John Couvillon, says House District 62 will be the key battleground. Republicans split 52% of the primary vote against incumbent, Rep. Roy Daryl Adams, I-Jackson, who advanced to the runoff as the leading vote-getter.
“I never want to assume that an incumbent is down and out, but you do have the possibility of Republicans getting that 70th House member,” he said.
Couvillon noted Republican leadership could convince an independent or moderate Democrat to flip affiliations if they cannot land 70 on their own.
Analysts, including Couvillon, have attributed the shift in power to decreasing democratic support in rural areas of the state. It’s a national trend, the pollster says, that’s becoming more obvious in Louisiana where Democrats once clutched rural votes in tight fists.
“About the only places Democrats can pick up seats now, even though they fell far short with their emerge candidates, would be in more urban areas such as East Baton Rouge Parish," he said. “The epicenter of their party is in Orleans, and to some extent, East Baton Rouge.”
Couvillon says the impeachment inquiry in Washington, D.C. did not help rural Democrats during this election cycle, and cited heavy national Republican attention to state legislative races beginning nearly three decades ago as another explanation for the shift.
If Republicans do gain near-total control of the legislature, political analyst and consultant, Clay Young, says they would likely make significant changes to taxes, education, and infrastructure funding, which are all key areas in which Democrats have checked Republican power in recent years.
“I think the possibility of a constitutional convention becomes more real by the day,” Young said. “When that happens, the question will be: What does Louisiana look like on the other side of it?”
Eddie Rispone, the Republican candidate seeking to replace Governor John Bel Edwards, has long pushed for a rewrite of the state’s guiding document. The process would certainly be easier with a super majority in the legislature.
“This has been one of the more quiet election cycles we’ve had in some time, but I don’t know that we’ve had a more important cycle in some time because of what’s on the horizon for Louisiana,” Young said.
Lawmakers will redraw their own districts after the 2020 census. Council for a Better Louisiana head and watchdog, Barry Erwin, says the district lines are already favorable toward Republicans, but that new lines may further divide rural and urban voters along party lines.
“You’ll have a contrast,” Erwin said. “There’s not a lot of balance in those districts. That means the individual legislators are really only beholden to one group of voters and they don’t have to pay attention to that minority group, whichever side it is, in their district.”
Erwin says a super majority would encourage more independence in the legislature, a new trend after decades of legislative submission to the executive branch.
Election Day is Nov. 16.