Landry-Boustany main event
Hopefully, Michael Buffer won’t sue for trademark infringement, but, “Let’s get ready to rumble.”
To the surprise of no one, U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, officially announced this past week he’s running against U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, even though Landry already has been campaigning unofficially for a year or so.
Thanks to redistricting and the loss of a congressional seat because of Louisiana’s limited population gains, the changes set up a rare fight between two incumbents from the same political party.
From a popcorn-eating audience perspective, it’s a good thing too because Louisiana does not — at least not yet — feature any other interesting congressional elections in November.
Boustany and Landry are both conservative white men who went to the University of Louisiana at Lafayette — although Landry will constantly try to paint Boustany as a too-willing-to-compromise RINO — but they have very different personalities and political styles.
Boustany, 56, is the mild-mannered heart surgeon who began his service in Congress in 2005 and has developed a conservative record that is considered more moderate relative to his far-right-wing peers.
Landry, 41, is the Cajun-accented firebrand and tea party darling who touts in his press releases the time he held a “Drilling = Jobs” sign during a speech by President Barack Obama, a stunt that was derided by some as crude. Landry has been a lawyer, sheriff’s deputy and successful small businessman in the oil-and-gas industry. He worked on other political campaigns before running himself.
Boustany contends he will focus on substance and his service to southwestern Louisiana and not the “bumper-sticker politics” of a loquacious freshman congressman like Landry, who can claim accomplishing only so much in less than two years in office.
Boustany is in a better position to have legislative successes because he is more closely aligned with the Republican leadership and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.
But Landry will attempt to use those ties against Boustany as someone who has been in Washington too long and needs to be replaced. In his announcement speech, Landry wasted little time in chiding Boustany as the “D.C. establishment candidate” and a “typical congressman” in a sea full of “career politicians.”
Boustany is considered the favorite in the election because he has the fundraising edge – at least for now – and most of the new 3rd Congressional District is made up of Boustany’s current constituents. But few are ready to count out the ambitious and wily Landry.
The district includes southwest Louisiana, including much of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.
While the outcome is unknown, pundits universally anticipate a lively and ugly race that will result in several millions of dollars spent.
So how did we get to this point?
Essentially, Landry was the biggest incumbent loser during Louisiana’s contentious congressional redistricting last year. As the only freshman Republican in the state delegation, it was virtually assured he would be forced into someone else’s district. Sure, redistricting is supposed to be based on geography, but politics is always at play.
The biggest winners were U.S. Reps. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, and John Fleming, R-Minden, who fought off the formation of an Interstate 20 corridor district in northern Louisiana that could’ve pitted Alexander and Fleming against each other.
The win there goes to Alexander, the dean of the Louisiana House delegation, who wasn’t keen on the idea of going against a tea party candidate in Fleming who also could’ve tried to target Alexander as a RINO just as Landry is doing with Boustany. As a result, Alexander may not be a top priority on Boustany’s Christmas card list any more. The north Louisiana congressmen were also backed by Gov. Bobby Jindal during redistricting.
As Associated Press reporter Melinda Deslatte noted last year, “In Washington Parish, it’ll be quicker for residents to drive through Mississippi to get to their congressman (Alexander) than to take Louisiana roads there.”
While that might make for an awkward route, the resulting gift is an entertaining congressional race in south Louisiana.
Jordan Blum is chief of The Advocate’s Washington bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.