WASHINGTON — Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry returned to Louisiana from Congress late Wednesday for the final push before Saturday’s 3rd Congressional District election. It’s a contest that may go down as the most expensive in state history for a U.S. House seat.
The two Republicans are fighting it out to determine the only congressional race still pending nationally for the year. They were forced into the same race to represent southwestern Louisiana because of congressional redistricting. Louisiana is losing a seat in Congress because of a lack of population growth.
Boustany, who retained a larger portion of his previous district, is predicting a victory by “double-digit” percentage points, while Landry said he believes in the “American way” of never believing being told by anyone that he cannot accomplish a goal.
Boustany, 56, is a four-term congressman and former surgeon from Lafayette who is closer with the Republican House leadership, while Landry, 41, is a businessman from New Iberia and freshman lawmaker aligned with the tea party movement.
“This election is not about me; it’s about a message,” Landry said, arguing that he is the only one who truly supports conservatism, limited government and “fiscal sanity.”
Boustany, meanwhile, has maintained that Landry is all talk and little substance.
“I represent a conservative voice for our district with proven results, and I’m someone you can trust to follow through,” Boustany said. “It really comes down to trust more than anything else.”
Boustany and Landry have combined to raise more than $6 million — about $4 million by Boustany and more than $2 million by Landry — and that is not counting the outside spending by third-party Super PAC groups, according to the Federal Election Commission.
Out of a five-candidate pool, Boustany won nearly 45 percent of the vote compared to about 30 percent for Landry in the Nov. 6 open primary election.
Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he is projecting a low 23 percent to 25 percent voter turnout on Saturday for the congressional race, compared to the 67.4 percent turnout in November.
Pearson Cross, who heads the University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science department, credits both candidates with running strong campaigns, despite the heavy mudslinging.
But Cross said Landry has little chance of winning, even if voter turnout is very low, as expected, and many of Boustany’s potential moderate voters opt to stay home.
“Landry may break 40 percent (of the vote) but everything seems to suggest it’s Boustany’s to lose,” Cross said. “If Landry were to win, it would be an enormous upset.”
Both of them are solidly conservative, Cross has said, but Landry has campaigned farther to the right and that makes moderates and Democrats traditionally more likely to choose Boustany if they opt to vote at all.
Boustany was hit with a new FEC complaint alleging that he bought the endorsement of a Democratic political organization in Lafayette that mostly markets to the African-American community.
United Ballot political action committee, which sends push cards in minority neighborhoods, endorsed both President Barack Obama and Boustany for re-election in November.
Christian Gil, a Landry supporter and leader of the Republican Party executive committee in St. Mary Parish, told The Associated Press that he filed the complaint alleging that Boustany used $35,000 in campaign funds to buy the endorsement.
The Boustany campaign denied that any dollars — donations or private funds — were used to buy an endorsement.
Gil alleges that Boustany shifted the money to the company of his campaign manager, John Porter, who then paid it directly to United Ballot leaders to cover the costs of distribution and printing of its endorsement slate card.
Whether the claims or true or not, Cross said he expects the complaint to have zero impact in the election. “The race has been so overwhelmingly negative, in my view, that won’t change the mind of a single voter, particularly in the last three days,” he said.
Both candidates allege each of their superior “ground games” will determine who wins in a low-turnout election.
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