Those 2010 census reports that came out last week provided some interesting insights into Louisiana population trends since 2001. Biggest gains are in South Louisiana.
East Baton Rouge Parish, for the first time, surpassed Orleans Parish in total population and became the largest of Louisiana’s 64 parishes. It has a population of 440,171, up from 412,852 in 2000. Orleans lost population heavily after Hurricane Katrina. Many fled and never returned. Orleans population dropped from 484,674 to 343,829 for a loss of 140,845 in the last 10 years. Even Jefferson Parish, next door to Orleans, with hardly a large city within its boundaries, showed a population of 432,552, down from 455,466 in 2000.
Orleans and Jefferson parishes were the only two in the top 15 that lost population. Sixteenth largest parish is St. Landry Parish, which slid from 87,000 to 83,384. It took the total population of the bottom 44 parishes to equal Lafayette Parish’ s total of 121,578. They totaled 122,735.
As the population sands shift, so does voting strength move. Until Edwin Edwards was elected governor in 1972, the only South Louisiana governor anyone could remember in their lifetime was Sam Jones of Lake Charles. All the others came from North Louisiana, where near block voting for one of their own sons guaranteed the seat. And their near block voting was large enough to win seven times without interruption.
Sam Jones of Calcasieu won the governorship in 1940. He was the last candidate from South Louisiana to win until 32 years later.
Edwards broke the South Louisiana jinx and since then only Buddy Roemer of Bossier parish was able to get a win for governor between two of the four terms of Edwards.
These South Louisiana governors were elected after Edwards broke the ice: Dave Treen of Orleans-St. Tammany, Kathleen Blanco of Lafayette Parish, Mike Foster of St. Mary and incumbent Bobby Jindal of Jefferson Parish, all who have locked out every North Louisiana challenger. John McKeithen, elected in 1968, was the last North Louisiana candidate to be elected governor.
The 11th election since then comes up in the gubernatorial election in 2012. Another political straw in the population wind shows the growing vote strength of South Louisiana.
Both Louisiana’s US Senators, Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, are from New Orleans. Bennett Johnson of Shreveport was the last Senator elected form North Louisiana.
Today, only one parish from the North region is in the state’ s top 10 largest. It is Caddo (Shreveport), which holds fourth position behind East Baton Rouge, Jefferson and Orleans, in that order.
Ascension Parish in the Mississippi River region showed the largest growth since 2000. Population there jumped from 75,527 to 107,215. It sits in the industrial corridor along the Mississippi River.
Acadia Parish gained 2,912 in population, going from 58,861 to 61,773. its bordering neighbor Jefferson Davis Parish went from 31,435 to 31,594, for a gain of 151. Vermilion dropped a total of 3,616, going from 87,00 to 83,384. Lafayette Parish continued its dash upward, from 190,503 to 221,578 for a big gain of 31,075.
The smallest parish population in Louisiana is Tensas Parish, with 5,252, down from 6,618 in 2000.
Total Louisiana population went from 4,468,976 to 4,533,372 for a gain statewide of 64,396 in the last 10 years. That small gain compared to the national population growth will cost Louisiana the loss of one of its present seven congressmen. Louisiana has not kept up with the national population growth.
Edmund Reggie is a retired Crowley judge.