By Jim Ellis
March 15, 2021 — Two of the upcoming special elections to fill vacancies in the US House will occur next weekend, and a new Louisiana poll suggests one of them will likely advance two candidates into a secondary April 24 runoff election.
The Edgewater Research/My People Vote survey tested 651 likely voters in Louisiana’s vacant 2nd Congressional District over the March 2-7 period in preparation for the March 20 jungle primary election. A likely voter for purposes of this study were people who have voted at least seven times in the last 10 statewide elections.
The pollsters, however, only named three of the 15 candidates on the ballot in testing the electorate. The query asked if the respondent is supporting “Troy Carter, Karen Carter Peterson, Gary Chambers, or someone else.”
The names refer to state Sens. Troy Carter (D-New Orleans) and Karen Carter Peterson (D-New Orleans), and Baton Rouge community activist Gary Chambers. No Republican was named in the survey even though author Claston Bernard and Greg Lirette have raised more money than Chambers, for example. The latter man, however, is well known as an activist who attracts a great deal of attention in the Baton Rouge media market.
The ballot test found the electorate breaking 35-24-11 percent in favor of Sen. Carter, with Peterson and Chambers following, respectively. The response for “someone else” was 16 percent. Sen. Carter, however, leads Sen. Peterson only 39-35 percent among Democratic voters, the dominant party in this district that captures most of the city of New Orleans and meanders northwest to include heavily African American Baton Rouge precincts.
The 2nd District basically divides into just two races: black and white. Of the citizen voting age population, blacks account for 61.5 percent and whites 31.7 percent. All other race categories comprise the remaining 6.8 percent of the demographic composition.
Within the black vote, Sen. Carter leads Sen. Peterson, 40-26 percent with Chambers getting 11 percent and someone else 8 percent. Within the white vote, the contest is much closer. In this case, the someone else category places first at 28 percent with Sen. Carter then topping Sen. Peterson in a much tighter 23-20 percent spread. Chambers had 10 percent support in the white category.
The poll was rather exhaustive in that it tested several issues and provided cross tabulations to show how people who support certain issue positions view the candidates. The top four issues broke almost evenly among the respondents with each falling between 20 and 25 percent individually as the stated topic viewed as most important.
The economy was first (25 percent), healthcare a close second (24 percent), the coronavirus just behind (23 percent), and public safety following (20 percent), but all were virtually within the same response plane.
Perhaps the most interesting data point is Sen. Carter’s standing when overlaying the most important issue responses to his ballot test support. Regardless of what issue the respondents gave as their most important area of concern, Sen. Carter finished first among the candidates.
For those choosing the economy, Sen. Carter led 34-27-25 percent over Sen. Peterson and someone else. Healthcare: Carter 32-24-14 percent over Peterson and Chambers; coronavirus: Carter 40-33-12 percent topping Peterson and someone else; and public safety: Carter 38-18-16-10 percent over Peterson, someone else, and Chambers.
A separate set of questions were asked regarding the public school system from grades K-12. Across the board, the respondents had a negative opinion about the quality of education in their area. Only 15 percent of the aggregate sample rated the area schools “good” as compared to 43 percent who said “fair,” and 38 percent who responded “poor.” Again, irrespective of whether the respondents believe the schools are good, fair, or poor, Sen. Carter placed first among respondents in each category.
Obviously, these crosstabs are good news for Sen. Carter, at least in terms of qualifying for the runoff election. Though he is poised to finish first, he appears too far from the 50 percent mark to have a realistic chance of winning outright.
The other March 20 election is in Louisiana’s 5th District. Here, Julia Letlow (R), widow of Congressman-Elect Luke Letlow, is viewed as the clear favorite though no public polling has yet been released. She has a substantial lead in financial resources and scored endorsements from former President Donald Trump, Louisiana GOP Sen. John Kennedy, and the Louisiana Republican Party. Ms. Letlow appears to have a strong chance to win outright next weekend.