Before any votes are cast, Republicans gained four seats in the Louisiana House of Representatives when qualifying ended Thursday.
The pickups move the party closer to potentially gaining a supermajority in both the House and state Senate, which would allow Republicans to wield considerable power even if they don’t regain the governor’s office.
“A two-thirds majority means you can pretty much do whatever you want in the legislature,” said John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge-based pollster and political consultant.
There are no party primaries in Louisiana. In October, candidates will all run against each other regardless of party; if no one gets more than half of the votes in a given race, the top two compete in a November runoff.
Three independent House members are not running for re-election; two had reached their term limit and one could have run but chose not to. In each district, only Republican candidates signed up.
In two House districts where Democrats were term-limited, voters will have only Republicans to choose from in the fall. Democrats got their only pickup when no one qualified to run against veteran lawmaker Francis Thompson, who will replace a term-limited House Republican.
Couvillon notes that no Democrats signed up to run for the House seat held by term-limited Democrat Sam Jones, only Republicans and independents. If the Republicans win the race, as he expects, and no additional seats are flipped, that would leave Republicans with 66 representatives in the 105-member body, along with 37 Democrats and two independents, he said.
The Senate’s party split remains unchanged for now at 25 Republicans and 14 Democrats.
To wield a two-thirds supermajority, a party needs 70 members in the House and 26 in the Senate. In the Louisiana Legislature, a supermajority is needed to raise taxes or fees, override a governor’s veto, or send a potential constitutional amendment to the voters.
Of course, officials can and do cross party lines, not every vote is strictly partisan, and there is no guarantee a party will vote as a block.
So in the fall elections, Republicans need to flip four seats to get to a supermajority in the House. Couvillon rates three races as tossups, so by his count they would need all three plus one upset or party switch.
In the Senate, he sees two Democrat-held seats as vulnerable. One is currently held by Sen. Eric LaFleur, who is term-limited, and the other by incumbent Sen. John Milkovich, who Couvillon describes as a “maverick.”
“Because he’s a maverick, there’s a question about how much Democratic enthusiasm he can generate in this marginally Republican district,” he said.