While LA3 has historically been a Democratic district, since the 2010 election the population has voted solidly Republican. In Louisiana, a primary is held before the general election, where the two candidates with the highest vote counts appear on the runoff ballot. However, if any candidate wins a majority of votes in the primary, the general election is cancelled. This notably happened in the 2018 general election, where Clay Higgins was re-elected with 55.7% of the vote. Notably, in the 2012, 2014, and 2016 elections, no Democrat made it even out of the primaries, indicating a complete dominance of Republicans in the district. As an extreme example, the 2016 election where Higgins first won his seat saw two Republicans move on to the runoff, with a combined 176,444 votes. The third-place candidate (a Democrat) only garnered 28,385 votes. This Republican dominance is not surprising for a Southern state, but as we will see, these voting patterns conflict with voter registration data.
Broadly speaking, literature on immigration policymaking all points to the conclusion that a representative’s partisanship is the single strongest predictor of their votes. Tichenor notes that this has not always been the case; in the past, immigration reform had cross-cutting cleavages, as pro-business Republicans and cosmopolitan Democrats banded together to support expansion, while union Democrats and Republican cultural protectionists supported restrictionism (2009). However, Wong’s research points to the fact that immigration has become a much more consistent partisan issue since the passing of H.R. 4437 (2014). Today we can observe that party stance is a consistent indicator of immigration stance, with Republicans vying for restrictionism, and Democrats supporting expansionism. This finding is echoed by Casellas and Leal, though they add that a somewhat weaker, though still significant, factor is the party voting rate in a representative’s home district (2013). While in the majority of cases, the most active party will elect a representative of their own party, it is important to make the distinction. Casellas and Leal also make the case that to some degree a representative will behave in a way that sets them up for re-election. For instance, they note that in districts with large Latino populations, a candidate of either party may want to support immigrants. This influence is dubbed “electoral threat”. This ties in well with Wong’s findings as well, as he finds that Latino population size correlates with a representative’s voting pattern, regardless of their party. Finally, in another article Wong reports that having a large foreign-born population can be linked to votes for expansionist policy (2017). It is not unreasonable to theorize that this could be due to the same electoral threat posed by Latino populations.
Given these predictions, it is fairly easy to predict what Clay Higgins’ stance on immigration will be. First of all, Higgins is a Republican. That alone makes it probable that he will support restrictionist policies. If that wasn’t enough, LA3 has almost no Hispanic population (3.8%) and an equally small foreign-born population (3.1%). Since the groups that typically would pose an electoral threat are almost nonexistent, it might seem that there is no reason for Higgins to ever consider supporting an expansionist policy. There is, however, one interesting quirk. Despite the massive Republican wins in LA3 in the past decade, Democrats actually constitute the largest group of eligible voters in the district (in the 2018 general election, Democrats were 40% of the electorate, versus 32% of Republicans). In this sense, Democrats could be interpreted as posing some threat to Higgins’ potential re-election. Yet in the 2018 primary, Higgins won a majority of the vote (55.7%). The second-place candidate, a Democrat, earned only 17.8%. Even though the electorate is largely registered Democrats, they all seem to vote Republican. Given this lack of opposition, we can further predict that Higgins will vote for restrictionist policies, but that he can be highly vocal about topics such as illegal immigration, the Border Wall, and ICE, as there appears to be no significant group that would turn against him.
Higgins’ time in office agrees with these predictions. On the 20 immigration bills that Higgins has voted on, he has voted the party line every single time. Furthermore, immigration seems to be a relatively important issue for him: he has sponsored 5 immigration bills, constituting 20% of his total sponsorships. Recently, he even authored a bill entitled “Supporting the officers and personnel who carry out the important mission of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement” that directly opposed another representative’s initiative to dissolve ICE. Higgins’ committee membership further confirms this. He is only on two committees, one of which is the Homeland Security committee. He is even the ranking member of the Subcommittee on Border Security, Facility, and Operations. What we observe in Higgins’ web presence more or less confirms these predictions as well. His website places a high emphasis on border security, mentioning it twice on its homepage. Some 40% of his 20 press releases this year mention immigration. In fact, his only video press release this year was a blistering rant about the need for a Border Wall, where he states “Criminal cartels control 100% of the Mexican side of our [border]”. Higgins’ Twitter is similarly unabashed, as 32% of his very active Twitter talks about immigration, often in the context of drug dealers, gang members, and sex trafficking operations. Overall, it is wholly unsurprising that Higgins is as pro-restrictionism as he is, nor is surprising that he very publicly expresses these views. Higgins has long been known for his candor, and he continues to apply that to immigration, stating just this week that: “We have D-Day every month on our southern border.” And given the makeup of LA3, there is no reason for this pattern to change.