by jordan blum
Advocate Washington bureau
November 21, 2012
WASHINGTON — Louisiana Agriculture and Forestry Commissioner Mike Strain jumped into the political fray Tuesday, endorsing Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, in the 3rd Congressional District.
Strain is the first statewide or multiparish elected official to choose sides in the congressional race that pits Boustany against fellow incumbent Republican Congressman Jeff Landry, of New Iberia.
Strain said he decided to publicly back Boustany because they have a long-standing friendship.
Strain said Boustany is a leading advocate for Louisiana’s agricultural industry.
Strain added he had nothing negative to say about Landry.
“I’ve been working with Charles Boustany for the last six years,” Strain said. “He’s a very good friend.”
Landry is leaning on the endorsements of various tea party-related groups and the backing of most of the parish Republican executive committees in the district.
The two incumbent congressmen were forced to run against each other in the Nov. 6 open primary election to represent southwestern Louisiana because of congressional redistricting. Louisiana is losing a seat in Congress beginning in January because of anemic population growth.
Boustany and Landry have a final radio debate scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday on KPEL-FM, 96.5, in Lafayette to be moderated by Jeremy Lawrence, the station’s program director.
Democrat Ron Richard, Republican Bryan Barrilleaux and Libertarian Jim Stark, all of whom are from Lake Charles, also are in the race. None of them were invited to participate in the radio debate.
Pearson Cross, political analyst and chairman of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science department, said the endorsement says more about Strain than Boustany.
“I think Mike Strain has given every indication he wants to run for governor (in 2015),” Cross said. “It (the endorsement) is an easy way to be seen as a player without taking a lot of risk.”
Strain said Boustany is pushing hard for a new federal farm bill –– the current bill has lapsed –– and his RAMP Act legislation would dedicate more funds to port and river-dredging projects.
Strain also lauded Boustany for recently intervening to help undo South Korea’s temporary ban on importing American rice.
One area where Boustany and Landry differ is that after the Nov. 6 elections, Boustany supports accomplishing as much as possible during the so-called lame-duck session before the end of the year, whereas Landry wants to cancel the session.
Boustany’s argument is that a lot of tax breaks expire and budget cuts go into effect at the end of the year. He said a lot needs to be fixed.
Landry argues that only bad compromises will be made during the time-pressed session and that the issues should instead be worked out retroactively early next year.
Strain said he sides with Boustany on the issue for the sake of the U.S. House taking up the farm bill to eliminate the uncertainty for farmers.
“We need to get in the lame-duck session and pass a farm bill,” Strain said.
The Boustany and Landry campaigns combined have spent about $4 million in the open primary election, according to Federal Election Commission records filed at the end of last week.
Boustany has spent twice as much as Landry.
Boustany has raised $3 million and spent $2.65 million, leaving him with $917,000 in the bank, according to the federal disclosures.
Landry has collected $1.85 million and spent $1.3 million, with $638,000 in cash on hand, he reported to the FEC.