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|Alexander calls shots on redistricting|
The special legislative session to deal with redistricting won't convene until March, but already there are signs it will evolve into a contentious affair in drawing the state's congressional districts to conform with the findings of the 2010 Census.
Besides drawing their own legislative districts, state lawmakers are responsible for crafting congressional districts as well. It's a thankless task.
At the heart of the redistricting flap is the U.S. Census Bureau's count of the number of people residing in the United States. It occurs every 10 years.
The Census Bureau's initial report on the 2010 Census was released a couple of weeks ago. It showed Louisiana's population growth over the past 10 years was rather stagnant, topping out at roughly 4.4 million residents. To put it bluntly, Louisiana grew so slowly over the past 10 years that we will lose one of our seven congressional districts, dropping to six seats in the U.S. House of Representatives.
The odds on favorite to lose his seat in the U.S. House is first-term Congressman Jeff Landry of the 3rd District, down on the bayou in southern Louisiana. A Tea Party Republican, Landry beat back former state Rep. Hunt Downer in the Republican primary last fall en route to easily outdistancing his Democratic opponent in the November 2010 general election. Landry, who took office this week, succeeded Charlie Melancon. Melancon gave up his seat in the House to challenge Sen. David Vitter in the 2010 election cycle.
Landry campaigned against the status quo. Unfortunately for Landry, many of the men and women in the Legislature who could be described as representative of the status quo will decide whether Landry keeps his seat. He won't.
Meanwhile, many of our friends and neighbors in southern Louisiana are of the opinion that northern Louisiana has no business being represented by two congressmen. That's their take on it since two-thirds of the state's population basically resides south of Interstate 10. In other words, the 4th District based out of Shreveport, which is currently represented by Congressman John Fleming, R-Minden, and the 5th District based out of Monroe, which is represented by Congressman Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, should be folded into one, large district in the north.
Our southern Louisiana contemporaries have a legitimate argument. Though they have a legitimate argument, they've obviously failed to realize that Alexander is the longest serving member of the U.S. House from Louisiana. He's the dean of the state's congressional delegation. He's also a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee. That's the committee in the House that largely decides how the people's money will be spent. A big stick, Alexander carries, even in this day and age in which spending the people's money is considered taboo in some circles.
Accordingly, when push comes to shove it will be Alexander whose blessing is sought on what the state's congressional districts will look like over the next 10 years. He holds the trump card whether anyone in southern Louisiana likes it or not.
It is worth noting that in redrawing the state's congressional districts it all starts in New Orleans. It starts there with the 2nd District, the state's lone minority district in the U.S. House. It must be preserved. No ifs, ands or buts.
Thanks to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and a host of rulings courtesy of the federal courts, minority districts must be drawn and preserved to reflect the demographics of any state that was determined years ago to have participated in activities that suppressed minority participation in the electoral process. Louisiana, like all of our southern brethren, is one of those states.
The irony of it all is that tall fellow from Quitman in Jackson Parish will dictate the what-not about redistricting to a host of folks who believe they call the shots in Louisiana.