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Republicans Ready to Unveil Compromise Map in Louisiana

Bill Clark/Roll Call
Rep. John Fleming (above) accused Rep. Charles Boustany of trying to turn a Republican district into one that favors Democrats. “In order to perfect one district, he really fouls up the rest,” Fleming said.

After a some failed attempts and a late night of negotiating, Republicans in Louisiana are ready to unveil a new Congressional map that could garner enough support to be in place for the next 10 years.

According to GOP sources, the new map includes two vertical districts in northern Louisiana, a plan similar to what Republicans had proposed in their map, which failed to pass. The new map would keep boundaries in southern Louisiana the same as suggested in the Democratic plan that failed to pass the state House on Wednesday.

The new map is essentially the bill named for Democratic state Sen. Lydia Jackson, except that the two horizontal districts in northern Louisiana in that version are flipped on their ends.

“It’s not the perfect district for me or for Rodney, but I think it’s something that we can get enough votes to pass,” Rep. John Fleming (R) told Roll Call late Wednesday night, referring to his own political fate and that of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R).

Republicans thought they had agreed on a map that would have left freshman Rep. Jeff Landry (R) without a district in a state that is losing a House seat after reapportionment because of population loss from Hurricane Katrina. But earlier this week, Rep. Charles Boustany (R) switched and threw his support behind the Democratic Jackson plan.

The move outraged Republicans in Louisiana and Washington, D.C., because, in their view, the map not only eliminated one GOP seat (Landry’s) but jeopardized another. It would have increased the African-American percentage of Fleming’s district to 43 percent and opened the door for Jackson to run against him.

It wasn’t so much that Boustany backed a Democratic bill, but that until a few days ago, he led other Republicans to believe that he was behind the “original” plan. According to one GOP strategist, Boustany “got support for the whole map and then walked away.”

Fleming accused Boustany of being willing to turn a Republican district into one that favors Democrats, a move he said would “basically set the stage for a Pelosi comeback.”

“In order to perfect one district, he really fouls up the rest,” Fleming said.

Republicans understood that Boustany had his own interests to protect but couldn’t believe he would sacrifice another GOP seat in order to create a perfect district for himself when he already had a good one.

“This was a bait-and-switch proposition,” Fleming continued. “If we knew earlier, we could have planned and worked against it. I suspect this was [Boustany’s] plan all along.”

Now it looks like Boustany’s tactics worked after all.

He’ll still likely face Landry in a GOP primary, but he’s on the cusp of getting the district that he wanted. There’s no love lost between the two Republicans after Boustany endorsed Landry’s opponent in last year’s primary and Landry won the nomination with support from grass-roots conservatives.

Fleming’s new district still won’t be a slam dunk since it would be about 35 percent African-American, but that’s close to the breakdown of his current district.

The new map unveiled Thursday morning will be an amended version of the bill from state Sen. Neil Riser (R) that previously lost in the Senate by a single vote. It appears to have enough of what everyone, including Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, wants in order for it to pass and be enacted. But until the votes are counted, anything is possible.

The deadline to pass a plan is next week or else they’ll have to wait until next year to revisit the issue.

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