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Rep. Garret Graves

Graves faces headwinds in potential redistricting battle

A confluence of internal Louisiana Republican politics and a looming redistricting fight could cost Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) his seat next Congress.

Political headwinds are forming against Graves, a rising star and top ally of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy who has been at the center of this Congress’ major storylines.

Nothing is decided yet, to be clear. The Bayou State’s lawyers are currently fighting against court demands that would force Louisiana to redraw its congressional map to add a second district for the state’s Black voters. And on Thursday, the Supreme Court declined to intervene in the state’s case, potentially delaying redistricting.

But if there’s a new map, experts expect either Graves or Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.) will see their seats dramatically changed. While there’s been no movement by the state legislature as the body waits for the courts, there’s reason to believe Graves could get hit with a significantly tougher district.

Two of Graves’ decisions this year have ruffled feathers in the tight-knit world of Louisiana politics.

First, Graves backed the gubernatorial primary opponent of Gov.-elect Jeff Landry, who stormed to victory this month. Graves’ support for Stephen Waguespack — who got just 5.9% of the vote — hasn’t gone down well with Team Landry.

In an interview, Graves struck a defiant tone and said he wasn’t worried about his political future.

“People every day go out and endorse people that ultimately don’t cross the goal line and people move on and mend fences,” Graves told us. “I’m not going to go out there and spend all my time looking over my shoulder and be worried about that.”

Another factor at play here is House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s ill-fated bid for speaker. Scalise allies are upset that Graves didn’t endorse Scalise over Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio). Scalise is one of the top power players in Louisiana politics. One of his political proteges — Cameron Henry — is set to become the next state senate president.

Graves, to be fair, was far from alone in his silence on Scalise’s speaker bid. Letlow was the only member of the GOP delegation to publicly back Scalise. Louisiana Republican Reps. Clay Higgins and Mike Johnson both stayed out of the race, citing their close relationships with both Scalise and Jordan.

“Honestly, I didn’t pay attention to the nuances of Garret Graves’ support or lack of support for Steve Scalise,” Higgins told us.

Johnson, who’s now running for speaker, declined to comment on the dynamics. Letlow also declined to comment when we asked her about redistricting and Graves’ actions.

“At the end of the day, I think that the people of Louisiana are going to want to do what’s right and not support any type of revenge,” Graves said.

The battle of Louisiana’s congressional map is currently tied up in the courts. And with the Supreme Court declining to intervene, for now, it’s unclear when the issue will get resolved.

Abha Khanna, the Elias Law Group partner representing plaintiffs in the challenge to the congressional map, said Louisiana “seems determined to exhaust every available legal maneuver before the Court is forced to step in to ensure a remedial map that complies with the Voting Rights Act.”

— Max Cohen

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Editorial photos provided by Getty Images. Political ads courtesy of AdImpact.