The acrimonious campaigns of 2016 set new lows even by Louisiana standards, but as always Election Day leaves in its wake a fresh set of political victors and vanquished. And because we love elections so much here in the Bayou State, we get to have one more before it's all over — the U.S. Senate runoff Dec. 10.
That Senate showdown no doubt will have its share of fireworks, but in the end it isn't expected to be close, which means it's already time to take stock of the carnage. Herewith our post-election recap of Da Winnas and Da Loozas, starting with ...
1. The Louisiana GOP — After a tough loss in the 2015 gubernatorial election, the state Republican Party rebounded in a big way this election season. All GOP congressional incumbents were re-elected easily, and Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy appears to be in great shape to win the runoff for U.S. Senate against Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell. Louisiana finally will join the rest of the South in having two Republican senators in Washington. Also, Donald Trump carried Louisiana by an even bigger margin than either Mitt Romney or John McCain.
2. Gov. John Bel Edwards — The governor backed Foster Campbell in the Senate race, and his support proved crucial in Campbell edging out Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany for the second runoff spot. Here in New Orleans, Campbell finished just ahead of Caroline Fayard, who had Mayor Mitch Landrieu's all-out support. This was a purely intramural contest, but it's clear which high-profile Democrat has the longest coattails in every corner of the state.
3. Charter school proponents — Even after teacher unions tried to elect a school board majority that would favor traditional school governance in New Orleans, the local board retains a solid four-vote majority in support of charter schools. The unions poured money into the race against Woody Koppel in District 6, but he won with 53 percent of the vote. This means charter schools, which let parents choose where their kids attend public schools, should survive the coming return of all Orleans public schools to the local school board's oversight.
4. Steve Scalise — The House Majority Whip already has serious clout on The Hill, but now that Donald Trump will occupy the White House, Scalise is likely to wield even more influence. Unlike House Speaker Paul Ryan, who backed away from Trump when the mercurial president-elect went off script (and out of bounds) during the campaign, Scalise never wavered in his support of the GOP nominee. Loyalty always matters to a new president, and Scalise's fealty to Trump, whether you like the president-elect or not, should inure to the congressman's benefit.
5. David Vitter — Even though he's leaving elective office and played no public role in the race to succeed him during the primary, much of Sen. David Vitter's campaign apparatus lined up behind John Kennedy — and Vitter wasted no time endorsing Kennedy right after the primary. Equally important, the strategy that failed Vitter in the governor's race a year ago worked like a charm for Kennedy: attacking GOP opponents in the primary and running against the establishment. Plus, assuming Kennedy wins the December runoff (which is a safe bet), Vitter will have the consolation of prevailing in a proxy war against John Bel Edwards this go-round.
Which brings us to ...
1. Louisiana Democrats — Last year's impressive victory by John Bel Edwards in the governor's race now looks more and more like a one-off. This year's elections saw Louisiana return to its predictable "ruby red" hue. In the presidential race, Hillary Clinton won just 38 percent of the vote — well below Barack Obama's 41 percent in 2008 and 2012. Although Foster Campbell eked out a runoff spot against John Kennedy in the Senate race, his prospects do not look good.
2. Mayor Mitch Landrieu — He backed Caroline Fayard in the U.S. Senate race and she narrowly lost Hizzoner's home base of New Orleans to Foster Campbell.
3. Louisiana's Capitol clout — We now have one of the weakest congressional delegations in the country, with the notable exception of House Majority Whip Scalise, of course. Scalise certainly will bolster the state's case on any issue in the House, but in the Senate we will have two first-termers beginning in January.
4. Public universities and higher ed boards — After voter rejection of proposed Constitutional Amendments 2 and 6, state lawmakers will have to continue wrestling with the politically volatile issue of higher education tuition levels without having the tools to temper higher ed cuts in lean budget years. Amendment 2 would have allowed higher education governing boards to set tuition levels, as is done in just about every other state. Amendment 6 would have allowed lawmakers to tap certain "protected" funds that should not outrank colleges and universities in terms of budget priorities. Failure of these two amendments will almost certainly lead to more higher-ed cuts.
5. Fiscal reform — The defeat of proposed Amendment 3 will not help the cause of sane fiscal policies in Louisiana. The amendment would have eliminated the deductibility of federal income taxes on corporate tax returns — something few other states allow but (typically) one of many generous giveaways that Louisiana showers on big businesses. This bodes ill for fiscal reform efforts in 2017, but that will bring a whole new set of winnas and loozas — and an another acrimonious round of battles.