Democrats scarce in congressional races
Advocate Washington bureau
August 19, 2012
The Democrats made a bit of a late surge Friday on the final day of qualifying, but there are still more Libertarians running for congressional seats in Louisiana than those from the party led by President Barack Obama.
The president’s general lack of popularity in Louisiana and throughout much of the Deep South basically leaves the Louisiana Democratic Party eyeing 2014 to attempt a strong push, or maybe even 2016, said Kirby Goidel, political analyst and director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab.
“If Obama wins re-election, it’s going to be another difficult cycle (for Democrats in 2014),” Goidel said. “That wouldn’t be a good cycle to try to make a comeback in. So it may not be until 2016.
“Charismatic candidates can always run well against party trends, but they’re hard to find,” Goidel said. “That’s why they’re anomalies.”
Only one of the state’s six congressional races guarantees to be interesting, he said, and the two frontrunners — U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia — are both Republicans forced to run against each other because of redistricting and the state’s lack of population growth.
Lake Charles attorney Ron Richard jumped into the crowded fray in Boustany’s and Landry’s 3rd Congressional District late Friday afternoon. Richard is the only Democrat being promoted by the state party thus far other than incumbent U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans. A third Republican and a Libertarian also are in the 3rd district race.
Richard’s goal is to hold onto the voting Democrats in the district with enough fundraising — and he said dipping into his own financial coffers — in a five-person race and squeeze into a runoff after the Nov. 6 open primary.
Goidel said Boustany still has to be the favorite with the most incumbent district support and the biggest war chest, but a larger field makes it harder for him. Landry, a tea party favorite, will continue to outflank Boustany on the right and the presence of Richard could hurt Boustany with moderates and Democrats if Richard can mount enough of a campaign.
Just don’t ask Richard what his campaign strategy is quite yet. He said he decided to run on Thursday after being inspired by the biblical “Parable of the Talents” and a call to serve, although he said he has considered entering politics for some time.
“I’m what you call a centrist, old-style populist Democrat,” he said.
Here’s a quick look at the other congressional races:
In the conservative 1st Congressional District outside of New Orleans, U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, faces another Republican, one Democrat and a No Party candidate, but all three are considered long-shot bids.
As for Richmond in the more liberal New Orleans seat that now extends to parts of Baton Rouge, he is challenged by two Republicans, a Democrat and a Libertarian. The Democrat, Gary Landrieu, stands out in name only because he is a cousin of U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. But Gary Landrieu garnered only 2 percent of the vote in a recent New Orleans City Council bid.
In the Baton Rouge-based 6th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, has only Libertarian and No Party opponents. His growing war chest is being saved up with most pundits expecting him to challenge Sen. Landrieu in 2014.
In northern Louisiana, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, is seen by Washington Democratic Party professionals as the most-vulnerable incumbent Louisiana Republican, but no one mounted a bid except a single Libertarian candidate.
Likewise, U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, is being challenged by a Libertarian and an opponent without party affiliation.
So does this mean the Libertarian movement is surging in the state, especially while supporters of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, are still fighting on his behalf?
“It’s interesting,” Goidel said. “I’d be surprised if any of them does particularly well, but it fits with the Republican split they have on social issues. But I’m not sure I’m ready to read too much into it yet.”
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvocate.