Racial Divide – Or Competing Political Ambitions – May Cost Louisiana Democrats a House Seat

In an earlier post, I spoke about the tangled web of race, politics, and ambition in Louisiana:

The Democratic Party was overjoyed by this spring’s victory of Don Cazayoux in Louisiana’s 6th congressional district, which includes the city of Baton Rouge. The 6th district had been held by the Republican Richard Baker since 1986. Baker vacated his office in February, and the state of Louisiana held a special election to fill the seat in May. Cazayoux won, beating out Republican Woody Jenkins, and will represent the district through the end of the year.

However, there still needs to be an election to fill the seat for the term that runs from 2009 through 2010. And this is where things get complicated.

Many black Democrats in Louisiana are upset that the state and National Democratic Party haven’t been supportive of black candidates running for congressional and state-wide offices.

Things got so bad that an associate of Louisiana state representative Michael Jackson sent out “robo-calls” to Baton Rouge’s African-American neighborhoods on the day of the May special election, telling voters to “teach white Democrats a lesson” by staying home and not voting. Jackson, who had not approved the calls, had to step in to have the calls stopped.

And now Jackson is threatening to run in the November general election for the 6th district as an Independent. Jackson has reportedly run television ads stating his intention to run in the November general election.

If Jackson does run in the November general election, it could have a devastating effect on the Democrat’s chances of holding onto the seat. Cazayoux and Jackson would probably split the Democratic vote, making it easy for the Republican to get the plurality of votes and win the election.

But on the other hand: Cazayoux and the Republican candidate – who almost certainly will be white – could split the white vote. And if Jackson could get the more votes than either white candidates, he could win the election outright, even if he only gets a plurality of the votes. (In Louisiana, there is no requirement for a runoff election where a candidate must get the majority of the votes.) The 6th district’s population is 33% African American.

And that explains why Jackson might be willing to run what is a high risk but dangerous campaign as far as the Democratic party is concerned.

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Political Miscellany 6/20/08

The Hill reported plans by Barack Obama to meet with his fellow Congressional Black Caucus members on Thursday (6/19). Relations within the CBC are said to be strained due to the hotly contested presidential primary. Many members of the CBC backed Sen Hillary Clinton, even though black voters overwhelmingly supported Obama.

Obama previously met privately with a group of religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Bishop T.D. Jakes, and Rev Franklin Graham, head of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. The meeting was held to solicit their input on national and world issues, and not necessarily to get their endorsements.

About 30 people were at the meeting. In addition to Jakes, three other prominent members of the black church were present: the Rev. Stephen Thurston, head of the National Baptist Convention of America, Inc., a historically black denomination; the Rev. T. Dewitt Smith, president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., which was home to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders; and Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin Sr., an A.M.E. clergyman and former NAACP board member.

Other reported attendees were conservative Catholic constitutional lawyer Doug Kmiec; evangelical author Max Lucado of San Antonio; Cameron Strang, founder of Relevant Media, which is aimed at young Christians; the Rev. Luis Cortes of Esperanza USA; and Paul Corts, president of the Council of Christian Colleges and Universities.

As they say, politics makes strange bedfellows. Consider the case of Sen Barack Obama and Georgia congressman John Barrow.

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