11 Ascension Parish Council seats are scheduled to be contested on October 14, with some districts having seen major changes to accommodate wildly shifting demographic patterns reflected in the most recent decennial census. Our analysis of those district-by-district shifts, with an assessment of potential changes to the electoral dynamic, focuses on District 2 today. (See above for map going into effect for Election Day, adopted during a Special Meeting of the Council on December 29).
Necessary population additions to District 1 across the Mississippi River meant that District 2 would have to change. In this configuration two of the latter’s west bank precincts (No. 48 and No. 50) were eliminated along with newly-configured Precinct 40 which had been split into 40A and 40B prior to redistricting. With nearly 4,000 voters that “alpha” precinct which included two massive subdivisions by Ascension standards (Pelican Point west of Hwy 44, and Pelican Crossing east of the roadway), was the most populous in the parish.
Current District 2 councilman, Joel Robert, won his seat by a paltry 44-vote margin, a threadbare victory made glorious by the opponent vanquished. Incumbent Bill Dawson is among the most impressive members in the history of Ascension Parish Home Rule. Robert’s ability to shrink the 2019 incumbent’s +300 vote margin in 40A/B to +4, while barely losing the Early Vote (-22, compared to Dawson’s 2015 opponent’s -207) was key to Robert’s electoral success. The 2015 vote tally saw Dawson win with a 783-vote margin.
Councilman Robert became Councilman Robert because he won all three of the other District 2 east bank voting precincts in 2019. The incumbent finished with 63% (Precinct 48) and 59% (Precinct 50) on the west bank. Eliminating those two from the District 2 contest on October 14 does nothing to diminish Robert’s chances at reelection. In fact, replacing Donaldsonville voters with City of Gonzales counterparts could significantly enhance those odds.
NOTE: The district retains Conway Subdivision inside Gonzales’ city limits. With so many new residents it is difficult to predict that outcome.
District 2 gains Precinct 32 (your writer’s precinct as it happens) where Joel Robert will have significant support. Having done some unofficial canvasing, it will be difficult for any opponent who does not reside in the city to perform well. The flipside, a candidate from the city would most likely perform poorly outside the city limits. The other addition to District 2 is one of the split precincts necessitated by demographic challenges, the eastern part of Precinct 27 which is sparsely populated.
Rumor has it that a potential opponent will emerge from Pelican Point subdivision. He/she would have to be considered the prohibitive underdog against the incumbent who avoided the redistricting process like it had a communicable disease. Robert concluded, correctly we think, that a solid majority of his colleagues would attempt draw a map least conducive to his reelection so he declined to tip his hand.
All things considered, it seems to this observer that they did him a favor.