Louisiana 6th District
Baton Rouge is the central node of Louisiana, on the boundary between the French-speaking, Catholic Cajun country and the heavily Baptist region. Its skyscraper Capitol and Exxon refinery sit just beyond the levees that line the Mississippi River. Historically, it was part of the Florida parishes, the territory west of the Mississippi River and north of Lake Pontchartrain that was not included in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. It still belonged to Spain, until the locals rebelled and declared their own Republic of West Florida in 1810. Then it quickly became part of Louisiana and the United States, but the Florida parishes, like the states of Texas, California, Vermont, and Hawaii, can claim to have been separate republics (and a kingdom in the case of Hawaii) before their people became Americans. When the man who dominated Louisiana politics for decades, Huey P. Long, became governor at age 36 in the old (and still-standing) Gothic Capitol, Baton Rouge had only 30,000 people. He built the 34-story Art Deco Capitol next door to the Governor’s Mansion, which he also built. Long also died in the capitol, the victim of an assassin in 1935. To the south, are the buildings of Louisiana State University, many of which he also built. Today, Baton Rouge is the center of a metropolitan area of 772,000 people that sits on the east bank of the Mississippi and reaches far inland to Livingston Parish. This is one of the faster-growing parts of Louisiana. Livingston and Ascension parishes outside Baton Rouge grew 27% and 29%, respectively, between 2000 and 2007, faster than any other parishes in the state. Baton Rouge grew more than that—no one knows how much more—in the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina, when evacuees moved into motel rooms, spare rooms in people’s houses, dorm rooms in LSU and Southern University, and the city’s population may have momentarily doubled; certainly the traffic jams suggested it had. Many have moved on since then, and the growth has subsided. New Orleans was long the state’s largest city, but Baton Rouge, with 225,000 people, now rivals the reduced, post-Katrina New Orleans in size.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Louisiana includes just about all of metropolitan Baton Rouge, plus three small, mostly rural parishes to the north. Overall, the district is 34% African-American, and historically it was Democratic. In the 1980s, the Baton Rouge area moved toward the Republicans, and in the 1990s, it was fairly closely balanced. In 2004, East Baton Rouge Parish voted 54% for George W. Bush, and Livingston Parish voted 77% for Bush; overall the 6th District voted 59% for Bush. In 2008, the shift was notable. Barack Obama won East Baton Rouge 50%-48%. The only other Democrat to have won the parish since 1964 was Bill Clinton, in 1996. But John McCain won Livingston Parish 85%-13%. McCain won the district 57%-41%.