Friday, October 14, 2005

Oh Lord, We lost our Black people!

Politics: That is what the Washington Post reports from Louisiana as officials come to grip with reality. This is not a possibility, it will happen and voting patterns will change in the state. More Hispanics, less Black, More White will decide the politics.

Less than two months after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, leaving much of New Orleans and surrounding areas unlivable, Louisiana officials are beginning to grapple with the bewildering new political landscape. The storms and resultant flooding caused more than 1 million residents to flee their homes, many for far-flung destinations from which they may never return. In a public service announcement released yesterday, Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who is in charge of the federal government's recovery effort, said: "In many areas, like the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans . . . the areas will be uninhabitable for many years." The unprecedented population shift is likely to have its first political impact in New Orleans, where Mayor C. Ray Nagin, who captured 44 percent of the black vote in 2002, and other municipal officials are facing a February election. ....In New Orleans alone, nearly half of the voting precincts were destroyed by Katrina. Many of the neighborhoods most affected include overwhelmingly Democratic black communities in the Seventh, Eighth and Ninth wards. And while many African American voters remain in Louisiana, a number significant enough to affect a close election have left. In political circles last month, "there was talk that the Democrats' margin of victory [in Louisiana] was living in the Astrodome in Houston," said Ronald D. Utt, a senior researcher at the Heritage Foundation. That reality has left some Democrats concerned that the party could lose its tenuous grip on power. Both Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco's 2003 election win and Sen. Mary Landrieu's 2002 reelection victory came with margins of fewer than 60,000 votes, which included overwhelming support from African Americans. "All of that's gone. So you are going to have a restructuring," said state Sen. Derrick Shepherd (D-New Orleans), a member of the elections task force. Also, Louisiana is likely to lose one of its seven congressional seats -- a prospect that had loomed before the storms and has now been solidified because of the state's population loss.

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