In Tuesday’s midterms elections, Louisiana voters offered mixed results. They reinforced the status quo by re-electing all six U.S. House incumbents. All were overwhelming favorites. Voters also soundly rejected the status quo by approving Constitutional Amendment 2, which abolishes the state’s century-old rule allowing non-unanimous verdicts in felony cases. The amendment garnered support from liberals and conservatives alike. Voters responded with a 64-36 percent vote in favor. In Orleans Parish, it received 85 percent support. The non-unanimous jury law, a relic of Jim Crow rule, is now off the books, though it doesn’t affect previous convictions. Oregon now is the only state that allows non-unanimous jury verdicts in criminal cases.
Turnout across the state was impressive — nearly 50 percent. That’s particularly remarkable for a midterm election in which the major statewide contest was for Secretary of State. In that race, GOP incumbent Kyle Ardoin will face Gwen Collins-Greenup, a north Louisiana Democrat who is little-known hereabouts but who has worked for the Louisiana Department of Labor and in Baton Rouge City Court. Unlike many other states, Louisiana saw few voting glitches. There were some long lines, but that reflects high voter interest.
In the Orleans Clerk of Civil District Court race, incumbent Chelsey Richard Napoleon fought off challenger Jared Brossett with 54 percent of the vote, while in the First City Court clerk’s race former state Rep. Austin Badon thumped incumbent Timothy David Ray with 64 percent of the vote.
Nationally, Democrats made gains in gubernatorial and state house races. They also made strong showings against Republicans in races across the South. As expected, Democrats flipped the U.S. House of Representatives. Locally, this means U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond will gain influence — he already leads the Congressional Black Caucus — while House Majority Whip Steve Scalise will be part of the minority leadership team.
In his endorsement interview with Gambit, Richmond said he was set to reintroduce the Voting Rights Act as one of his first moves should the House go Democratic. Richmond also seeks a hike in the federal minimum wage, a move that’s popular nationally but not among Louisiana Republicans.
Democratic control of the U.S. House will provide a much-needed check on President Donald Trump and his policies, which were largely supported by a GOP-controlled Congress. Of immediate interest is health care policy and the Affordable Care Act (ACA), which Republicans were unable to overturn even with control of Congress and the White House. That means popular provisions such as coverage of pre-existing conditions and for dependents up to age 26 are safe, at least for now.
Looking ahead, the Dec. 8 runoff is not likely to replicate the large Nov. 6 turnout. That kind of interest should return in the October 2019 gubernatorial primary, when Gov. John Bel Edwards will face one or more Republican challengers, who may include U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry and possibly even Scalise — though the Whip says he’s not interested.
Voters deserve a rest from the divisive political rhetoric and vitriol that have marked national politics in recent years. Unfortunately, we don’t see a long cooling-off period ahead.