By JIM BUTLER
Jay Luneau, unique among Louisiana’s state senators, reported $229,000 in his campaign fund at the end of 2022.
Luneau’s District 29 originates with a piece of western Avoyelles Parish, takes a triangular path north, which includes Lecompte and Forest Hill, funnels into inner Alexandria, leaps the Red River into part of Pineville and turns left, meandering through Grant, Natchitoches, Winn, Bienville and Jackson (Jonesboro-Hodge), before mercifully coming to rest in 28 Lincoln Parish (Ruston) precincts.
It is a textbook example of torturous mapmaking by legislators meeting required population numbers while trying to preserve their individual seats and striving for an overall majority for their party.
The district, according to the Legislature, has 71,000 Black residents, 42,000 white and about 6,000 of other races.
The ideal population for each of the Senate districts, on the basis of the 2020 Census, is 119,834.
District 29 is the only one of the Senate’s 11 majority-black district seats held by a white.
According to Senate records, the district registered voter population is 37,000 Democrat, 14,000 Republican and 17,000 other.
(An aside: the Senate in its most recent reapportionment action, voted 27-12 against creating another majority-Black district. Luneau, a Democrat, was one of the 12 voting to create the district, according to the roll call.)
Luneau reported $74,000 in campaign contributions last year, $28,000 from PACs. The contributions also include $11,000 in reimbursements from the Senate.
For the current election cycle, 2020 through 2022, Luneau’s campaign reports $56,000 from PACs.
Senators receive a disproportionate amount of PACs’ dollars because of their relatively small number, 39, as opposed to the House, with 104 members.
Luneau’s campaign fund spending last year included $3,400 at Carmel Valley (CA) Ranch, $935 at The Palazzo at the Venetian Resort (Las Vegas), and about $2,100 at New Orleans’ Windsor Court.
Senators, again by virtue of their number, are often asked to speak to professional and special-interest groups on topics related to their legislative focus, with costs reimbursed.
Such meetings are most often at locations in the high-rent district of popular destinations.
Luneau, an attorney, is chairman of the Senate Labor and Industrial Relations Committee. He also sits on Judiciary A and Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, among other posts.
Also in the 2022 campaign spending total is the time-honored “event tickets to meet with legislators”, $4,500 paid to the LSU Athletic Department.
Whether it’s sporting event tickets or hunting club memberships or a host of other spending choices, rulings have established such are proper campaign spending, whether any constituents are actually present, for Luneau or anyone else.