Washington Watch for Dec. 16, 2012

Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum
Washington Bureau writer Jordan Blum

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, carried nearly 61 percent of the vote to easily defeat fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, and represent southwestern Louisiana in Congress for the next two years.

Pundits say the win could give Boustany a stranglehold on the district for years to come in the victory that was the last congressional race to be decided nationally this year.

Boustany had a built-in advantage thanks to congressional redistricting in that more than three-quarters of the new 3rd Congressional District was made up of Boustany’s old district and that seemed to be the decisive difference.

The outspoken Landry, who has much stronger ties to the tea party movement, had called the race symbolic of the fight for the heart and soul of the Republican Party.

Boustany disagreed.

“The Republican Party is a broad national party,” Boustany said last week after returning to Washington, D.C. “This election was about whom would best serve the people of the 3rd Congressional District, and I think that’s where the votes came from.”

Boustany said Landry ran a “dirty campaign” and that the people of southwestern Louisiana are probably sick of all the television and radio campaign advertisements. The race, after all, was the most expensive U.S. House race in state history.

“Our constituents are ready for the holiday season and they want more Christmas programs,” Boustany said with a laugh.

As for Landry, he was gracious in defeat and declined to discuss specifics of the race.

“It’s all been written. I’m done. That election is over,” Landry said. “We all endure a couple losses on the way to being a champion.”

With comments like that, no one expects the 41-year-old lawyer and businessman to fade away from the political scene.

Landry insists he does not need politics in his life and that he is looking forward to family time and duck hunting. He said he turned people down about running for Congress in the past before eventually deciding on his own that he might make a good fit.

But he could still run eventually for a local district attorney or eye a bigger prize, like challenging U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in 2014, where she is yet again seen as vulnerable in an increasingly conservative state because of the “D” behind her name.

“If those ingredients present themselves again, um, I might seek an elected office again,” Landry said, refusing to comment on any potential races.

But Landry likely would have to fend off other Republican challengers in a 2014 U.S. Senate race as well. He raised well more than $2 million in the congressional race but spent it all and he’d have to start from scratch to make up a lot of ground for a Senate run.

Landrieu, for instance, already has a war chest of more than $1.6 million that is continually growing.

Likewise, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, was only weakly challenged for re-election and already has built up more than $2 million with his eyes on a Senate run, although he is far from declaring his candidacy. “What American who loves their country wouldn’t want to run for the U.S. Senate?” Cassidy said recently.

While the elephant in the room is the potential, but less likely, Senate candidacy of Gov. Bobby Jindal, the current dark horse in the race is independent multimillionaire and U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden.

The physician and business owner has only about $500,000 in cash on hand, but there is plenty of time to raise funds and he can always dip into his own net worth more easily than any other contenders.

“We are taking a look at that (Senate) race,” Fleming said. “I know Cassidy is looking at that too.

“But there’s certainly no decisions made,” he said. “We don’t have a deadline or anything.”

Landrieu has often received backing in the past from some powerful Republicans, as well as the oil-and-gas industry, Fleming acknowledged, but he said he believes a lot of them “regret” that past support. Landrieu has offered “Band-Aids” supporting industry in the past, Fleming said, but “not good policy” for economic growth.

Determining whether a Republican can peel off a lot of that support must be answered, Fleming said, “before anyone puts his congressional seat in jeopardy.”

Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is jblum@theadvo
cate.com.