▸ The gist: Louisiana’s redrawn congressional map, revised to add a second majority-Black district, also hits Lafayette. That means Lafayette will have two representatives in Congress, potentially a Republican and a Democrat.
▸ Big picture: The second majority-Black district finalized by the Louisiana Legislature last week and signed Monday by Gov. Jeff Landry includes a chunk of north Lafayette, pulled from Republican U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins’ 3rd Congressional District into Republican Garret Graves’ 6th. The newly configured district spans from Baton Rouge up the Red River to Shreveport.
“Lafayette Parish would have a unique opportunity to benefit from the close partisan divide in Washington, D.C., since the two districts touching it will likely be opposite party members,” says political consultant Mary-Patricia Wray of Baton Rouge. “Everyone likes a two for one sale, and Lafayette Parish could be well-positioned to get some great deals on this one.”
▸ But is this map the final word? Legislators were back at work in the special session after U.S. District Court Judge Shelly Dick agreed with civil rights groups that the map passed in 2022 violated the Voting Rights Act. Dick still has to approve the new map, which creates a second majority Black district in the state, and Graves has already hinted at a challenge, saying the map “ignore(s) the redistricting principles of compactness and communities of interest.”
▸ So who might rep LFT? Landry has not been shy about his support for controversial Democratic state Rep. Cleo Fields of Baton Rouge, who says he’s running in the newly configured district. These strange bedfellows came together in part over bad blood between Landry and Graves, who supported Stephen Waguespack in last fall’s governor’s election.
▸ Democratic State Sen. Gerald Boudreaux, who was reelected to a third and final term in the fall and now has much of his District 24 in the 6th Congressional District (it took in all of St. Landry Parish), hasn’t ruled out a run.
“It’s a process I have to go through of discernment, of checking numbers, the demographics … see what type of support throughout a district of this magnitude [I] would be able to capture. The process has started,” Boudreaux says.
▸ Having two reps would not be a first for Lafayette. Louisiana did briefly have a second majority-Black district in the 1990s. Sometimes called the “Z-District” or the “Zorro District,” the heavily gerrymandered, Z-shaped district underwent a lengthy legal battle. None other than Cleo Fields was the representative. According to The Daily Advertiser, the district had offshoots to collect residents from the state’s other urban areas, like Monroe, Alexandria and Lafayette.
▸ But don’t count Graves out. 50-50. That’s the odds on a Graves re-election, even if the new map stands, opines former U.S. Rep. Jimmy Hayes. He says 54% of the Black voting population in the 6th District won’t necessarily ensure a Black candidate’s victory (the first majority-Black district, held by Troy Carter of New Orleans, has 51% Black voters).
“Obviously the biggest factor will be to what degree the Landry administration and [U.S. Rep.] Steve Scalise get involved,” says Hayes, who served from 1987 to 1997. Scalise has placed some blame on Graves for his failure to capture the speaker’s gavel last October.