3/20/21 Louisiana Special Election Previews

Today we will have our first two congressional special elections of this cycle, both of which will take place in Louisiana, with each party defending one seat. Neither are expected to be particularly competitive and will use a jungle primary format, where every candidate goes on one ballot. If no candidate reaches 50%, the top 2 will face off in a runoff five weeks from now. The current delegation in Louisiana consists of 4 Republicans and the 2 vacant seats.

Current Louisiana Congressional Balance

Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District (Democratic Defense)

Candidates: Chelsea Ardoin (R), Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste (I), Claston Bernard (R), Troy Carter (D), Karen Carter Peterson (D), Gary Chambers Jr. (D), J. Christopher Johnson (D), Harold John (D), Brandon Jolicoeur (I), Lloyd Kelly (D), Greg Lirette (R), Mindy McConnell (L), Desiree Ontiveros (D), Jenette Porter (D), Sheldon Vincent Sr. (R)

Overview: We start with the only deeply Democratic district in Louisiana, spanning from New Orleans to Baton Rouge. Joe Biden won by 52 points in this district and in fact, previous incumbent Cedric Richmond was one of Biden’s campaign chairs and resigned to join his staff to direct the Office of Public Engagement. His resignation triggered a large field of candidates, especially among Democrats, with two State Senators from New Orleans, Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson, leading the pack in public polling. Carter has more support from the local establishment, including an endorsement from Richmond himself. However, Carter Peterson has two key national endorsements from Stacey Abrams and Emily’s List, which have given her some significant traction on a national scale. A third Democratic candidate, Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr. could also have an outside shot, as he has garnered some support among left-wing media figures as the most progressive choice in the race. Perhaps, more importantly, Chambers Jr. has a geographic advantage as the most prominent Baton Rouge Democrat in the race.

2020 Presidential Vote by Congressional District in Louisiana

On the Republican side, there are four candidates running in long shot bids for this seat. The most prominent of these candidates is former olympic decathlete Claston Bernard, who has a few key endorsements including from Joseph Cao, a Republican who won in a freak special election in this district in 2010. However, with ticket splitting becoming increasingly more of a rarity, I would be stunned if this happens again. Most likely, due to the likely vote split among 4 Republican candidates, there will be 2 Democratic candidates, probably Carter and Carter Peterson, advancing to a runoff

Rating and Prediction: Safe D. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson advance to a runoff with 35% and 30% of the vote.

Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District (Republican Defense)

Candidates: Candy Christophe (D), Chad Conerly (R), Jim Davis (I), Allen Guillory (R), Robert Lansden (R), Julia Letlow (R), Jaycee Magnuson (R), Horace Melton III (R), Vinny Mendoza (R), Richard Pannell (R), Sancha Smith (R), Errol Victor Sr. (R)

Overview: We now move to Northeast Louisiana, in a much more Republican-leaning district. This seat opened up in tragic circumstances, when Republican Representative-Elect Luke Letlow passed away due to COVID-19 before ever being sworn in. The Republican establishment has rallied around his widow, University of Louisiana Monroe administrator Julia Letlow, to carry on and take his seat in this special election. Letlow has run largely as an establishment conservative, and has gained key endorsements including Donald Trump and Kevin McCarthy, as well as most of Letlow’s 2020 opponents. While Letlow will undoubtedly be the top finisher, whether she clears the 50% threshold is the largest looming question. Her biggest threat to doing so is likely Alan Guillory, the only Republican candidate in the field who also ran against Letlow in 2020.

2019 Gubernatorial race by Congressional District

Another key piece as to whether Letlow wins outright is how well Democrat Candy Christophe does. Cristophe ran in 2020 against Letlow and narrowly avoided making the runoff by less than 1,000 votes. If she has a strong performance in this race and helped pull Letlow below 50%, she would probably be the other candidate contesting the runoff. However, Letlow would still be heavily favored in that runoff, as not even Democratic Governor Jon Bel Edwards won the 5th district in his 2019 re-election bid. Regardless, I do think Letlow will narrowly win outright tonight.

Rating and Prediction: Safe R. Julia Letlow wins outright with 55%

Louisiana State House of Representatives District 82 (Republican Defense)

Candidates: Eddie Connick (R), Raymond Delaney Jr (D), Laurie Schlegel (R)

Overview: Finally, we move to a similarly conservative seat in the suburbs of New Orleans, one which voted for Donald Trump by 30% in 2016, although I would guess that it swung slightly leftward in 2020. With three serious candidates running, pretty much any result is possible. That being said, I would peg Republican businessman Eddie Connick as the slight favorite to take the top spot. If Connick’s fellow Republican Laurie Schelegel also proves to be a strong candidate, I think a runoff between the two could be a likely option. However, Democrat Raymond Delaney Jr. could also enter into the runoff if there is more of a split between the Republicans. Overall, any outcome except Delaney Jr. winning outright would not be surprising, and I would guess this one heads to a runoff.

Rating and Prediction: Safe R. Eddie Connick and Laurie Schlegel advance to a runoff with 40% and 35% of the vote.

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