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Monday, January 22ed, 2024

Baton Rouge, Louisiana


Remember, back in the days when members of the Louisiana congressional delegation were easily accessible, and regularly in touch throughout their districts? When you saw your representative at local fairs and festivals,  riding parades, shaking hands, and having their picture taken with constituents? Remember when each one of Louisiana’s six congressional districts was concise, and you could travel from one end to the other less than an hour?  Remember when your congressman would hold a $25 a person picnic fundraiser in their district with hundreds of people showing up? Those days are long gone.

In days past, a voter could find Northwest Louisiana congressman Joe Waggoner on a Saturday morning at Murrell’s Café in Shreveport holding court with  constituents. New Orleans Congressman Hale Boggs would spend the day at Mike Roccafort’s Seafood eating crawfish and listening to the local concerns.  Seventh District Congressman Jimmy Hayes would often be seen at the Rice Palace in Crowley visiting with the Saturday morning crowd of local politicians.  Lots of handshaking, coffee drinking, local politicking, and listening. That’s what constituent’ service was all about just a few years ago.

In the special session of the Louisiana legislature that ended last week, a new congressional map was adopted and signed into law by the Governor.  The new law is a mishmash of districts that overlap, and are spread from one end of the state to the other. For Louisiana voters, it looks like a redistricting disaster.

Congressman and US House Speaker Mike Johnson now has a district that runs from Shreveport all the way south of Lake Charles. The northeast Louisiana Fifth District runs from the Arkansas border down to Baton Rouge, then all the way to the Mississippi line. It will take more than  five hours to drive from one end of this district to the other. A new district favorable to an African-American candidate will run from Shreveport south of Baton Rouge; another five hour drive.

Baton Rouge Congressman Garrett Graves crossed paths with both the new governor as well as New Orleans congressman Steve Scalise, the majority leader in Congress. So instead of organizing districts that were in the best interest of voters, legislators undercut Graves and put him in the newly created district that favors an African-American candidate.  Graves’ new district is only 54% black, so it’s not out of the question that he still could be reelected. But he will certainly have an uphill fight.

Congressmen today rarely travel throughout their district. They spent a good part of their week in Washington raising money. The majority of the money raised  comes from outside the state from lobbyists and other vested interests.  Having your congressman speak to your local civic club? Good luck with that. Such visits and talks about what’s happening in Washington are a thing of the past.  It’s now all about raising as many  campaign dollars as possible, all to be used to flood the airwaves with campaign advertising to beat down one’s opponent.  No wonder that the average Louisiana voter is tuned off by what’s going on in Washington, and why so few constituents actually vote.

This weekend, some 3000 Louisianans will converge on Washington DC to whoop it up at the annual Mardi Gras ball. Yes, as a former statewide elected official I have been there on several occasions. And yes, it’s a good place to network and discuss issues important to the state. But again, the big expenditures are picked up by national special interest groups at the request of Louisiana’s congressional delegation. Fundraisers will take place all over Washington. Not Louisiana dollars, but out of state dollars.

There’s nothing wrong with a little socializing. But the drive for campaign dollars and the spreading out of campaign districts that takes five hours to drive from one end to the other, are important factors as to why constituents just don’t seem to care anymore. And that’s just not good for Louisiana.

Peace and Justice

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s syndicated column appears each week in numerous newspapers throughout the nation and on websites worldwide. You can read all his past columns and see continuing updates at http://www.jimbrownusa.com.






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