Earlier this summer, state Democratic Party Chairman Buddy Leach confidently promised that a full slate of candidates would materialize for the Oct. 22 primary.
Leach even tossed out a dozen names of possible contenders for major offices.
Of the 12 names he mentioned, only one is vying for a statewide office in the upcoming election.
Haynesville schoolteacher Tara Hollis, a Democrat who has little money to mount a statewide campaign, is carrying the flag for a party that once dominated Louisiana’s political scene.
Hollis is running against Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Democrats also fared poorly in the races for 144 legislative seats.
Nearly half of the races failed to draw opponents, handing outright victories to 44 Republicans and 17 Democrats.
Of the 83 legislative races that will be on the Oct. 22 ballot, 22 feature only Republicans or candidates without a party affiliation.
“I’ve got to admit it doesn’t look good,” said Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, of Bossier Parish. “Louisiana is right there with its twin brother Mississippi, which sort of makes me sick.”
As in Louisiana, Democrats are fading from power in Mississippi.
Kurt Corbello, associate professor of political science at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, said this is a low point for Louisiana’s Democratic Party.
“Whether the party has further to fall, is on a plateau of sorts, or whether it has no place to go but up, remains to be seen,” Corbello said.
“The Democratic party in Louisiana has lost control of the agenda in this state, having failed to adjust to the rhetoric of the times.”
Leach said Democrats shied away from the fall primary partly because of the combined efforts of Jindal and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., to elect conservative candidates.
He said bright, young Democrats will come forward in the future.
“I feel very strongly that we’re in a cycle,” Leach said.
Others blamed a backlash in Louisiana to the politics of the Obama administration.
Former Secretary of State Al Ater, a long-time Democrat, said the Democratic president is unpopular in Louisiana. He said the sentiment is turning the state into one of hate instead of one of hope.
“I don’t think it’s a referendum on the success of Gov. Bobby Jindal. It was more of a personal decision for most given the overall personal feelings about the president,” Ater said.
Jindal campaign aide Timmy Teepell said the president is taking positions that conflict with Louisiana voters’ views. “As long as Barack Obama is president, it’s going to be very hard for Democrats to win in Louisiana,” he said.
Several Democrats said they are optimistic that the political climate will change.
“The general public has less and less affiliation with party ID,” said state Sen. Lydia Jackson, D-Shreveport. “It’s a pendulum that swings.”
State Sen. Sharon Broome, D-Baton Rouge, likened her party’s predicament to a drought.
“We are in the process of regrouping and redefining ourselves,” Broome said. “I’m not really discouraged.”
Ater noted that the Republicans’ surge is a recent phenomenon in Louisiana.
Republicans now hold the majority of the seats in the Louisiana Legislature for the first time since Reconstruction.
“I don’t think it signals the end of anything. In the not too distant days, it was not uncommon at all not to have a Republican in the race,” Ater said.
New Orleans attorney Caroline Fayard was widely seen as among a rising crop of new Democrats when she forced Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne into a runoff last year.
Fayard considered running for secretary of state this fall only to opt against it.
She said she considers herself a conservative Democrat who continues to embrace the party’s ideals.
“I’m not disheartened at all maybe because I am a little younger. I feel the best days are ahead,” Fayard said.