Jim Beam column: Presidential primary coming

Published 6:39 am Wednesday, January 3, 2024

Louisiana voters haven’t heard much about it, but there is going to be a presidential preference primary in the state on March 23. However, the major election this year is for president and members of Congress on Nov. 5. Congressional runoffs would be on Dec. 7.

The state’s last presidential preference primary was on July 11, 2020, when President Joe Biden got 80% of the Democratic vote and former President Donald Trump got 96% of the Republican vote.

The Democratic turnout was 22.6%, and the Republican turnout was 21.7%.

Email newsletter signup

Presidential candidates qualified for the upcoming March 23 Louisiana presidential preference primary from Dec. 13 to Dec. 15. Biden is one of eight Democratic candidates. Trump is one of nine Republican candidates. Carol Asher is the only Independent Party candidate.

In addition to Biden, there are three Democratic candidates from California and one each from Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, and New York. None of those seven have made news headlines.

Republican candidates who have been in the news, in addition to Trump, are Chris Christie of New Jersey, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Nikki Haley of South Carolina, Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas and Vivek Ramaswamy of Ohio. The other three relatively unknown GOP candidates are from Florida, Maryland, and Texas.

Louisiana candidates have also qualified for membership on the Democratic and Republican state central committees.

The Democratic committee has 210 members. Two are elected from each of the state’s 105 representative districts. One male and female is elected from each district. The Republican committee has 230 members elected from special districts across the state.

Much could change between now and the Nov. 5 presidential election, but Biden and Trump at this point appear to be the leading candidates.

The parties are closely divided in both the U.S. House and Senate. The Senate has 48 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 3 Independents, who caucus with Democrats to give them a 51-vote majority. The House has 220 Republicans, 213 Democrats and 2 vacancies.

The Associated Press reported on New Year’s Eve that a chaotic year came to a close in the House on that day with more Democrats than Republicans deciding to leave their chambers.

About two dozen Democrats have indicated they won’t seek re-election. Half of them are running for another office. Only 14 Republicans have said they aren’t seeking another term. Three of those are seeking other elected offices.

Republican U.S. Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma told The AP, “Politically, I think we’re well positioned for 2024. I just think the margins are going to remain narrow no matter who wins.”

Cole added, “The number of competitive seats is so much lower than it was even a decade ago, the polarization is so much greater, that it’s hard to move big numbers. Whoever wins the presidency probably wins the House.”

Louisiana’s six House members are up for re-election. They are House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-Benton; House Majority Leader Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; and U.S. Reps. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans; Clay Higgins, R-Lafayette; Julia Letlow, R-Start; and Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge.

The makeup of the state’s congressional districts is expected to change once the Legislature in a Jan. 15 special session is supposed to draw up a second majority-Black House district.

Stephanie Grace in a Sunday column in The Advocate said, “Let me say here that, if Graves finds himself re-elected to Congress a year from now, I’ll be eating my words.”

Grace said Graves didn’t exactly embrace Scalise’s losing bid for House speaker and he endorsed his friend Republican Stephen Waguespack, a candidate in the gubernatorial race won by state Attorney General and Gov.-elect Jeff Landry.

Landry will be governor when the Legislature is supposed to draw up that second Louisiana majority-Black district in the U.S. House.

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, was re-elected to a new six-year term in 2020. U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-Madisonville, was re-elected to a new six-year term in 2022.

Presidential preference primaries are major elections in many states, but not much of a big deal in Louisiana. Iowa Republicans will hold their caucus on Jan. 15. New Hampshire has its primary on Jan. 23, the first in the nation. However, Democrats don’t recognize that date and will hold their first primary on Feb. 3 in South Carolina, the first place Biden won a primary in 2020.

Let the political games begin!