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Friday, March 5, 2010

Vote, then Go Have Fun

Posted By on Fri, Mar 5, 2010 at 7:47 AM

Timing is everything in politics, and the timing of the race to fill state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson’s former seat in House District 93 has been set for May 1 — which falls on the second weekend of Jazz Fest. The runoff, if needed, will be May 29, which falls on Memorial Day weekend. Qualifying will be March 30-April 1, which is just days before Easter Sunday.

The election and qualifying dates were set by House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, who the state constitution authorizes to call special elections to fill House vacancies. Tucker says he called the election for May 1 partly because that date is the next scheduled special election date (i.e., it’s already paid for by the state) and partly because he wants to make sure the district is represented during the upcoming legislative session, which begins March 29. The May 1 date also was recommended by Secretary of State Jay Dardenne, the state’s chief elections officer.

The timing of the special election was largely out of Tucker’s control. Peterson did not officially resign until last Monday, March 1, when she took her oath of office as a senator. Tucker could not legally call the election until she officially tendered her resignation.

Tucker may soon be calling another special election in the House for May 1 — depending on the outcome of the City Council runoff in District E. If state Rep. Austin Badon wins that seat — and if he resigns or announces his resignation prospectively soon enough — Tucker says he will schedule the election to fill his unexpired term in House District 100 for May 1 as well. “It’s important for those two districts to be represented in this session,” Tucker says. “Even if each race goes to a runoff, many of the biggest decisions come in the final weeks.” The session must end by June 21.

The timing of any special election has profound political impact, mostly because of the historic differences in turnout among white and black voters. Peterson’s former House district is split almost evenly along racial lines. Whites often turn out in larger proportions than black voters in special elections, particularly when nothing else is on the ballot.

The list of potential candidates in District 93 includes some familiar names from the recent citywide elections, plus some names from the recent and distant past: former TV news anchor Helena Moreno, who worked in John Georges’ recent campaign for mayor; James Perry, the lawyer and fair housing advocate who ran for mayor; Orleans Parish School Board member Thomas Robichaux, who won his board seat less than 18 months ago; and former state Rep. Louis Charbonnet, who served in the Legislature from 1972 to 1984.

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