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.
FDA to regulate e-cigarettes, Jodie Foster gets married, Vermont to require labels on genetically-modified food, and more news for today, April 24, 2014.
Thursday's Blogs from the Bog!
A push to expand Louisiana's Medicaid program as allowed under the federal health care has been overwhelmingly rejected by the Senate health committee.
Louisiana welfare recipients would be prohibited in state law from spending the federal assistance at lingerie shops, tattoo parlors, nail salons and jewelry stores, under a bill that received the support Wednesday of a House committee.
Senators will consider whether to prohibit private businesses in Louisiana from paying unequal wages to employees of different genders for the same job.
Rep. Joel Robideaux has delayed bill hearings and said unless a compromise can be reached, he won't bring up the legislation this session.
Once again, Lafayette Parish School Board President Hunter Beasley is focused on an issue that has nothing to do with the educational well-being of our public school children.
After exhausting his appeals all the way to the state Supreme Court, the owner of the Tiger Truck Stop in Grosse Tete has no legal remedy left save one: do an end run around the high court via a bill that would grandfather his “right” to keep a 550-pound tiger enclosed in a pin at his roadside business.
Louisiana poet Darrell Bourque has won the 2014 Louisiana Writer Award, given annually to recognize outstanding contributions to Louisiana's literary and intellectual life.
Drivers would have to secure dogs riding in truck beds while on interstate highways, if the Senate agrees to a bill backed by the House.
An effort to prohibit employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity was shelved Tuesday for the legislative session.
Louisiana won't lessen its penalties for marijuana possession, keeping laws on the books that allow people to be jailed up to 20 years for repeat offenses of having the drug in hand.
“This is one of the oldest divides that exists, and that divide is about the haves and the have-nots.”
It took a few weeks for the pitfalls to emerge in the governor’s $25 billion budget, but the time of judgment has finally arrived.
With pressure continuing to build for him to resign, Congressman Vance McAllister announced plans recently to remain secluded during the Easter break, but the Swartz Republican has said he’ll be back on the Hill casting votes and attending committee meetings when the congressional recess ends April 28.
A bid to limit the use of unmanned aircraft on private property in Louisiana stalled Monday in the Louisiana Senate.
A Shreveport lawmaker said Monday he's scrapping his proposal to name the Bible as Louisiana's official state book.
Attorney hopes fellow lawyers will join him in urging the D.A. to step aside and allow a competent, ethical challenger to take over the scandal-ridden office.
An official with the Louisiana Department of Education was arrested on a range of charges Friday after allegedly breaking into a home and brandishing a knife.
State Rep. Stuart Bishop says he’s concerned with the quality of Capitol Lake, but when it comes to Louisiana’s coastline, this Lafayette Republican doesn't seem to give a damn.
Democrats sweating this year's elections may be hoping that the Obama administration's latest delay to the proposed Keystone XL pipeline takes a politically fraught issue off the table for the midterms.
Louisiana lawmakers are entering the second half of their three-month regular legislative session, which must end by June 2. Where some of the major issues stand:
Local and state agents Thursday night raided The Keg, the popular college bar located in the area known as The Strip, leading to the (at least) temporary closure of the venue.
Time and time again, the Lafayette Parish School Board shows an overwhelming tendency toward idiocy, but Wednesday night’s contentious discussion over Northside High School’s teen mother program tops the list of dumb discussions.
“The accomplishment of this goal within the next ten years is not only critical for the region to effectively compete with other regions for residents and businesses, but also to provide an amenity for everyone in Acadiana to enjoy.”