Out of all of the major candidates vying to capture the 3rd Congressional District, a political novice from Houma appears to be the clear money leader as the race begins to heat up. Aside from his rookie status, Ravi Sangisetty is also a Democrat running for office in a district that national odds-makers have pegged as a possible takeover for Republicans.

Incumbent Congressman Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, is vacating the seat to oppose U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, later this fall. When first elected in 2004, that last time the 3rd Congressional District was open, Melancon raised $1.7 million to clear a crowded field and claim victory in the runoff against his predecessor’s son, Billy Tauzin III, a Republican who likewise raised $1.7 million for the contest.

While that kind of dough won’t be found in the race that’s raging today, there are still a few months to go. But the declared candidates who raised money in 2009 will soon have to show their hands, since yearend reports are due to the Federal Elections Commission by Jan. 31.

Sangisetty, an attorney and native of Terrebonne Parish, appears to have the edge with $250,000 raised by the Dec. 31, 2009, fundraising cutoff date. About $100,000 of that sum represents a personal loan and a press release from Sangisetty stated that another $117,800 was collected during the final quarter of 2009 alone.

As for the bottom line, his campaign’s forthcoming report will show a balance of $225,000 cash on hand. Sangisetty said he’s running a straightforward campaign that focuses on the federal government’s bloated spending, unproductive partisan politics, job creations and reforming the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “People are excited for a new generation of leadership in coastal Louisiana and our fundraising successes so far are clearly showing this,” he added. 

State Rep. Nickie Monica, R-LaPlace, who has been raising money since last summer when national Republicans were initially courting him for the seat, has not yet released his preliminary numbers to the public. A call seeking comment from Monica was left at his district office last week, but he was unable to reply.

Fellow Republican Jeff Landry of New Iberia is a much more recent entry into the race and he reports raising $96,000 in just three weeks during December. Landry has also put $20,000 of personal money into the campaign kitty and he expects to have roughly $115,000 cash on hand to report later this month. An official announcement on his candidacy is expected in the coming weeks, but he’s already working high-ranking politicos. Sources close to his campaign say he met with Republican leaders and officials from the National Republican Congressional Committee this past weekend during Washington Mardi Gras. 

Kristian Magar, also a Republican from New Iberia, said in an interview Friday that he will file a campaign finance report in seven days, but it’s unlikely to reflect the same size numbers his opponents are touting. “I’ve been spending more time meeting people, making contacts and building an organization. I really just started raising money seriously this month. I’m not trying to win the fundraising race,” said Magar. “I’m trying to win votes.”

He said he wants to “show voters I can run a fiscally conservative campaign.” Magar, an oilfield services manager, said he’s also considering a novel concept in campaign-related sales where the merchant producing the hat, sticker or sign would receive the profits instead of the campaign.

Technically, it’s still early — candidates do not have to qualify until early July for the first party primaries to be held Aug. 28. Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge said he might switch from Democrat to Republican to run in the 3rd Congressional District. Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer of the Louisiana National Guard, a Houma native and former Republican speaker of the state House, is also considering the race, as is state Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, among others. 

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