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.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has punted on its first chance to decide whether a new state constitutional provision declaring gun possession a fundamental right could void a long list of criminal statutes that regulate firearms.
New Orleans' offense, which ranks sixth in the NFL, isn't helping many of its skill players pile up Pro Bowl-type stats. Rather, the approach of coach Sean Payton and quarterback Drew Brees has enabled a wide range of play-makers to emerge periodically with high-production outings.
An ordinance phasing out a rebate businesses receive for collecting and remitting sales taxes is tabled, but it doesn’t solve the vexing issue of government revenue.
Here's your daily look at late-breaking national and international news, upcoming events and the stories that will be talked about Thursday, December 12, 2013:
As part of a national undertaking known by industry insiders as the “Butterfly Project,” a rebranded version of The Daily Advertiser is set to launch with Sunday’s edition of the Gannett-owned paper.
Louisiana moved up a slot to 48th in the ranking of healthy states — once again, thank God for Mississippi! — so all this frettin’ about Gov. Bobby Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid per Obamacare ... fuggidaboutit! We don’t need Medicaid no more!
The Denham Springs woman who placed Christmas lights in the shape of a butter finger on her roof in a display of anger directed at neighbors has doubled the trouble for the 2013 holiday season.
The 30-second commercial, to run around the state, is the Democratic senator's first TV spot in her bid for re-election to a fourth term.
It's a number that has edged up but falls far short of the thousands who are eligible for subsidized coverage.
A group of mostly higher education leaders will make recommendations to state lawmakers about how to tweak the policies governing tuition rates charged at the state's public colleges.
That would be Congressman John Fleming talking about Sen. David Vitter.
The alleged mastermind behind the bribery scheme that went on for four years under DA Mike Harson’s nose isn’t just schizophrenic, bipolar and recovering from mini strokes; he now says he has cancer.
Louisiana's higher education leaders are trying to work out a financing deal to keep the state's public colleges from running low on state cash to operate their campuses.
With their latest triumph, the Saints left little doubt about how tough they are to beat in the Superdome. Unfortunately, two of their remaining three games are on the road.
For the first time in at least five years, retired teachers, state workers and school system employees could see an increase in their pension checks.
Lawmakers and Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration shared a collective sigh of relief with the news that Louisiana's tax amnesty program brought in the $200 million that they used to help balance this year's budget.
Drew Brees often makes the extraordinary look routine, particularly during night games in the Superdome.
The teams were extended invitations Sunday for the New Year's Day matchup played at Raymond James Stadium, home of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
If all 44 projects are approved, about $300 million would remain in the fund set up as a down payment to help the Gulf.
Last week, the Saints gave up 429 yards to Seattle, second most in a game this season.
Since Anthony Jennings and Brooks Haack were not expected to contribute until next year at the earliest, it seemed like a sneak peek at hidden Christmas gifts.
Louisiana National Guard personnel seeking benefits for same-sex spouses will have an easier time filing the requests, despite a state refusal to let its workers process the paperwork.
Panthers coach Ron Rivera sees one potential flaw with his team's stellar defensive play so far this season. "Apparently we like to bite on the double moves," Rivera said.
Computer hackers may have gained access to the personal information of thousands of Louisiana residents who use debit cards issued by JPMorgan Chase for three state agencies, authorities said Wednesday.
Jim Purcell, who has been in the job since February 2011, notified the Board of Regents about his decision at its monthly meeting.