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.
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is courting young voters in several appearances across Louisiana this week, talking about her support for legislation that could lower students' college costs.
Coton de tulear joins Westminster; Paypal splitting from Ebay; first US Ebola diagnosis and more national and international news for Wednesday, October 1, 2014.
Wednesday's Blogs from the Bog!
Stage 4 vet takes on cancer and reminds us all what it really means to get involved.
Is Mary fading as Vitter solidifies his lock on the fourth floor?
Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration has renegotiated contracts for six LSU hospital privatization deals, hoping to reach a compromise with federal health officials that will keep Medicaid dollars flowing to the privatized patient services.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu is defending her record on gun rights, seeking to rebut sharp criticism from the NRA in a state where the right to bear arms is given special constitutional protection.
Citizens, you have less than a week to register to vote in the Nov. 4 election. Remember, if you don’t vote you can’t complain about the outcome. Well, you can but it’s kind of hypocritical.
After being forced out by its former landlords last year, the community garden has a new location and a 10-year lease.
The party says it has hit a milestone, reaching 10,000 registered voters in the state.
Defensive captain Junior Galette is disgusted by the Saints' sluggish start.
The use of $60 million in Louisiana's public school financing formula to pay for nearly three dozen charter schools violates the state constitution, a statewide teachers' union claimed Monday in a lawsuit.
February trial date indicates parties were unable to negotiate a settlement.
There was a time when United Ballot had a political stranglehold so tight on Lafayette’s black community it was nearly unbreakable, but that grip might be loosening.
The race for Lafayette city marshal may not be the most exciting of this year’s local political contests, but it could prove the most historic.
With the DA’s race too close to call and negative media coverage of Mike Harson on the ebb, will challenger Keith Stutes take the gloves off?
Gov. Bobby Jindal has been viewed as a health care policy wonk, and he's tried to build on that image ahead of a likely 2016 presidential campaign, positioning himself as the candidate with substantive ideas.
Jerry Jones watched what he called the best effort he's seen in 25 years as owner of the Dallas Cowboys in the first half, and that was before Tony Romo had the longest scramble of his career and DeMarco Murray finished off yet another 100-yard game.
Two of the most recognizable women in Republican politics, Sarah Palin and Mary Matalin, have been heavily involved in Louisiana’s current election cycle.
Even though the Louisiana Democratic Party has thrown its support behind former Gov. Edwin Edwards’ congressional bid, national Democrats are not expected to follow suit.
“[Mike] is no longer the energetic ADA that his recent ad is trying to portray. I just think Mike needs to get the hell out.” — Kermit Harson, DA Mike Harson’s brother
The New Orleans Saints have listed Jonathan Goodwin as questionable for Sunday night's game in Dallas, raising the prospect that second-year pro Tim Lelito will start at center for the first time.
The endorsements keep coming for District 9 LPSB candidate Jeremy Hidalgo, who picked up his fifth vow of support Thursday, this time from the Chamber’s political action committee.
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter will be out knocking on doors this weekend with anti-abortion activists encouraging people to vote against his colleague, Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The ACLU of Louisiana has sued Abbeville's mayor and police chief over a policy barring police from any social media use showing the city in a bad light.