Sunday, September 11, 2005

The Politics of Katrina II

The political fall out from Hurricane Katrina could lead to a nasty several years of bickering and back biting in Louisiana and could accelerate an on going shift in that state’s political make up.

Last week, I explored the politics of Katrina ruminating about the impact of the evacuation of the heavily Democratic New Orleans.  Others are now talking about the same issue, albeit quietly, as in this London Financial Times article demonstrates.

It looks to be a nasty year, at best.   New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is the first prominent incumbent to face the voters.  His Term ends in April, but should he be inclined to run again, expect his to be an unusually partisan affair, with some special complications.
To start with, Nagin was a Republican up until he announced his plans to run for Mayor in New Orleans, when he changed his registration to the Democratic Party. Even more interesting is the reported feud between he and Governor Blanco.Turns out that he endorsed Blanco’s Republican opponent Bobby Jindal.  I’m not sure that the Democratic Machine in New Orleans is likely to hop on his bandwagon seven months from now.  He hasn’t been a showstopper during the disaster. Just today we learned that Nagin knew about the breech in the levees at least 12 hours before it was publicly announced.  And I’m sure that no one will make an issue of his previous political contributions to W, in 2002.
Right after the Mayoral race, the 2006 mid-term congressional elections will be up.  Five of the seven Louisiana members of Congress are Republicans. The two Democrats represent – you guessed it – New Orleans.  Nationwide, the ’06 Congressional Campaigns will be played up as a referendum on Bush, and Louisiana may be a battleground, if for no other reason than the state’s Democratic base may spread across 25 states.  

The loss of a significant Democratic population in the New Orleans area will also have a big impact on Governor Blanco, who barely won her last election (over Republican Congressman Jindra) with the overwhelming Democratic support from the New Orleans area. Her election is in 2007.

Senator Mary Landrieu is up for reelection in 2008, and faces the same problem as Blanco, though the construction may have brought some of the Democrat base back to town by then.  Then again, here last election was close too, and a heavily Democrat fully populated New Orleans was the only reason she won that race.

All of that, plus the sudden development of "Political strategies" on a national level to leverage Katrina for both the Democratic and Republican parties means there’s little likelihood of bi-partisan anything in the coming months and years in Louisiana.