Lafayette — Attacks and accusations of lying flew for much of the final debate Wednesday night between U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, in the battle to represent southwestern Louisiana in Congress.
Boustany repeatedly accused Landry of lying about his record and said Landry accomplished virtually nothing in his freshman term in Congress. “The people of south Louisiana are tired of good-old-boy, wink-and-nod politics, lie and cheat to get elected,” Boustany said of Landry.
Landry countered that Boustany is more liberal than he would admit and that Boustany and other multiple-term Republican congressmen put the nation on the path to a federal deficit crisis even before President Barack Obama became president.
“They compromise their principles while they mortgage our children’s futures,” Landry said. “He (Boustany) points fingers at a fiscal cliff that he helped build.”
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 a lack of population growth.
Sometimes acting hostile, the congressmen were kept in check in the Halloween debate on KPEL-FM, 96.5, in Lafayette by moderator Jeremy Lawrence.
Democrat Ron Richard, Republican Bryan Barrilleaux and Libertarian Jim Stark, all of whom are from Lake Charles, also are in the race. But none of them were invited to participate in the radio debate.
Richard wrote a letter Wednesday to KPEL objecting to the debate and requesting equal time for fairness, especially since Boustany and Landry are both Republicans.
KPEL General Manager Mike Grimsley said he will give the request his attention, although he added that he had not yet had time to think about it.
Landry touted his experience as a business owner in the oil-and-gas transportation industry and that he held the “Drilling equals jobs” sign during an address of Obama to Congress.
Boustany is the “same old, same old,” Landry said. “I’m looking to change the direction of the country,” Landry added.
Boustany, a retired heart surgeon, touted his experience as a Republic Party spokesman against Obama’s health care law. He said he has helped to cut out Medicare waste and fraud thanks to his chairmanship of the U.S. House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee.
Boustany continued to connect himself to congressman and GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, of Wisconsin, through their work together on health care and the current crafting of tax code “reform” to lower tax rates while reducing “loopholes and deductions.”
Landry countered Boustany needs to “Quit playing the Barack Obama game of politics.” Landry attacked Boustany for his vote last year with the Republican leadership to increase the debt ceiling in order to avoid a potential government default on spending.
The failure of the so-called super committee to reach compromises since then has forced the fiscal cliff of automatic spending cuts at the end of the year.
Landry said he will stand up and force the end of spending increases. “Liberals like Charles have repeatedly caved,” he said.
Landry is more aligned with the tea party movement while Boustany is closer to U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and the party leadership in the House.
Boustany argued that Landry has lacked substance because he has missed 107 votes in his first term ranging from issues regarding embassy security to support for veterans.
Landry said he was in southern Louisiana meeting with constituents during most of the votes he missed on meaningless or procedural issues.
Boustany said he serves constituents and still manages to “show up for work” to vote. “I think you should be able to walk and chew gum at the same time and, apparently, Mr. Landry can’t do that.”
Kirby Goidel, a political analyst and director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, said he expected Landry to be the primary aggressor in the debate but that “Boustany was just as willing to give.”
Goidel said the debate got “personal” largely because Boustany and Landry are both Republicans without many significant ideological differences.“The differences aren’t that large and it gets a whole lot nastier,” Goidel said.
Boustany likely scored points for attacking Landry’s voting record, Goidel said, but Landry’s more “populist” and “talk-radio style” personality may have helped him over Boustany’s more “even-handed” speaking style.