More politicos than usual from the western side of the 3rd Congressional District are taking an interest in the area’s congressional seat these days. Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon’s decision to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter next year leaves the district with no incumbent. Would-be candidates have been lining up for months for a rare shot at an open Louisiana congressional seat.
A 3rd District contest normally begins with behind-the-scenes moves by power brokers in the Houma-Thibodaux area, which accounted for roughly 30 percent of the votes cast in the last contested election in 2006. Generally, as those two parishes go, so goes the rest of the district, which stretches from St. Bernard and parts of Jefferson parishes on the eastern end to Iberia Parish on the western side. The 2006 race drew a total of more than 136,000 voters (nearly 7,000 from St. Bernard and Jefferson), but since then some strong political winds have been blowing on the western side of the district.
The only officially announced candidate from Acadiana is New Iberia businessman Kristian Magar, a Republican. Magar hails from a region that trends Republican, whereas voters along the central coastline often go Democratic. Magar says he got into the race because the district needs a conservative voice, but adds that he won’t play the usual partisan game. “For me, party politics don’t play a role in why I’m running,” he says. “In fact, I hope voters in the district are getting past Republican and Democrat labels.”
Also expected to enter the race, according to GOP officials, is Republican New Iberia attorney Jeff Landry. Iberia was the third-largest parish in terms of voter turnout three years ago, producing nearly 19,000 votes. So far, Magar and Landry appear to be competing for the same votes and resources.
Then there’s the Acadiana wild card: state Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge, who says he may switch from Democrat to Republican to seek the seat. Besides having close ties to Gov. Bobby Jindal, Angelle formerly served as president of St. Martin Parish, which yielded the fourth-largest turnout in the 2006 race. Also coming out of St. Martin Parish is state Rep. Fred Mills, D-Parks, who says he has been called by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee about the race.
This is a big change from previous elections in the 3rd, which saw candidates from the southern and eastern ends of the district flood the starting gate. Dr. Pearson Cross, a political science professor at UL, says the lack of heavy hitters from “down the bayou” may be one reason for all the interest from Acadiana. “This could be a geographic distribution of lack of ambition,” he says. “You really have to wonder why we haven’t heard from any of the state senators in the district yet.”
The only announced candidate from the coastal parishes is Ravi Sangisetty, a Houma attorney, political newbie and lifelong Democrat. Hunt Downer, a Houma native and former speaker of the Louisiana House, is also considering the race. On the eastern side of the district, state Rep. Nickie Monica, R-Laplace, has been raising money for months and was initially courted by the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee. State Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, is also eyeing the contest.
Cross says redistricting and reapportionment after the 2010 Census could affect who’s running and who’s not. Because of post-Katrina population changes, adjoining districts could swallow the 3rd if Louisiana loses one of its seven congressional seats to reapportionment. Some areas could shift eastward into the black-majority New Orleans district, while others could join the 7th District in southwestern Acadiana or the Baton Rouge-based 6th District. “There would probably be more interest all around in the open seat if it wasn’t largely thought to be falling victim to redistricting,” Cross says. “That’s why this just doesn’t feel like a normal open seat.”
The conservative Louisiana Family Forum projected last year that Terrebonne and Lafourche could join the 2nd District in New Orleans to create a new minority district. More recently, the Rose Institute of State and Local Government published a study focusing largely on what Republicans might want. That study concluded that the GOP would probably like to expand the 7th District eastward — “especially if [the 3rd District] is divided and abandoned in 2011 because that region is solidly Republican.” The Rose study also suggested that Republicans might try to expand Baton Rouge’s 6th District to the southeast, into other Republican areas of the 3rd District — “not St. James Parish or St. John the Baptist Parish” — to make the district more conservative for years to come.
Whoever does run in the 3rd next year will find it uniquely challenging. Not only will candidates have to campaign in three media markets, but they’ll also have to pay attention to the outlying areas, because no one knows what the district might look like two years later.
"I am not a scientist," Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has said numerous times, a response that other members of his party have parroted.
Republicans are running strong races against endangered Democratic incumbents in states such as North Carolina, Colorado, Arkansas, Louisiana and Alaska. Republicans are also looking to replace retiring Democrats in Iowa and West Virginia with a GOP lawmaker.
Republican congressman Vance McAllister is trying to make up to Louisiana voters for getting too close to a married former employee.
You may not like all of “it,” but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, unlike many of her colleagues, isn't sitting around twiddling her thumbs in Congress.
Saints safety Kenny Vaccaro says he "can't wait" to play against Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
The heat keeps rising for Iberia Parish Sheriff Louis Ackal as a new slate of corruption allegations surfaced this week.
If opposing defenses sell out to stop the Packers' passing game, they risk being gashed by powerful running back Eddie Lacy, a New Orleans-area native.
At the horn the officiating crew trotted to the tunnel and left security personnel to clean up after them.
Friday's Blogs from the Bog!
Sign "ninjas" cleaning up clutter; NYC doctor positive for Ebola; Ferguson grand jury decision nears; and more national and international news for Friday, October 24, 2014.
We can safely assume incumbent Chief K.P. Gibson isn’t too worried about this challenger.
Nationally, Republicans must gain six seats to win Senate control. The most competitive races, many in states where Obama lost in 2012, remain too close to call.
The Baton Rouge Republican has repeatedly battled a perception within his own party that he perhaps wasn't the best choice to carry the GOP banner.
Even if Jimmy Graham's production dips while the star tight end recovers from a shoulder injury, it looks like Drew Brees won't have much trouble finding other targets.
A former campaign manager for Senate candidate Rob Maness is striking at the Republican contender's tea party support, saying Maness only sought to appeal to conservative organizations because he needed money for his campaign.
Ninety-two percent of public school teachers were rated either effective or highly effective in a report the state issued marking the second year of a new statewide evaluation process.
School board members Mark Babineaux, Hunter Beasley and Tehmi Chassion can vote to fire Cooper — because we all know that’s exactly what they’ll do.
District 2 school board candidate Simon Mahan is hoping to unseat first-term incumbent and former Carencro Mayor Tommy Angelle in the Nov. 4 election.
District Attorney Mike Harson is showing his desperation by falsely attributing quotes to his opponent and blocking journalists from his social media.
The governor is traveling the country laying the groundwork for a possible 2016 presidential campaign, but his approval ratings at home hover well below 50 percent.
State District Judge Bob Downing extended the order and delayed a planned Wednesday hearing about a permanent injunction while negotiations continue between Attorney General Buddy Caldwell and the waste disposal site operator.
New Louisiana higher education commissioner Joseph Rallo will be paid more than his predecessor.
Elijah McGuire and Alonzo Harris each had four rushing touchdowns, and Louisiana-Lafayette rolled to 419 yards on the ground in a 55-40 victory over Arkansas State on Tuesday night.
Bill and Hillary Clinton are the validators-in-chief for Democrats struggling through a bleak campaign season in states where President Barack Obama is deeply unpopular.
President Barack Obama is turning to black radio listeners to plead for midterm votes, a targeted approach to drum up Democratic support at a time when many candidates don't want him around in person.