The level of voter turnout likely will determine the winner in the runoff between congressional incumbents Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, on Dec. 8, according to political analysts.
Boustany, who had predicted an outright victory in Tuesday’s open primary election, collected just under 45 percent of the vote and will now face Landry head-to-head in the redrawn 3rd congressional district to represent southwestern Louisiana.
Boustany and Landry were forced to run against each other because of congressional redistricting. Louisiana is losing a U.S. House seat because of a lack of population growth.
“The smaller and more committed the electorate (on Dec. 8), the better for Landry,” said Pearson Cross, who chairs the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. “The larger and more general the electorate, the better for Boustany.”
The reasoning, Cross said, is Landry can attract the more fervent conservative base that is aligned with the tea party movement, while Boustany is more likely to attract a mix of conservatives, moderates and some Democrats. But relatively low turnout is expected with few other items on the ballot, Cross said.
Out of five total candidates, Landry won 30 percent of the vote Tuesday while Democrat Ron Richard of Lake Charles took in 21.5 percent. Richard took in 36 percent in his home, Calcasieu Parish, which Cross said likely surprised Boustany.
“Boustany has to be kicking himself,” Cross said, arguing that Boustany may have won outright if he had reached out sooner and more aggressively to Democrats, minorities and those who backed Richard in Calcasieu Parish.
While Boustany is still considered the favorite to win, Cross said, “He’s going to have to really work for it.”
For his part, Boustany said he is doing just that and he is confident of winning.
“We have a great voter turnout operation,” Boustany said. “He (Landry) can’t hide behind Richard anymore. He knew, in a head-to-head race, it wasn’t going to be pretty for him.”
Landry did not respond to multiple interview requests Wednesday, but his message Tuesday night was that more than 55 percent of the voters in the district said they did not want Boustany representing them.
Landry’s campaign manager, Phillip Joffrion, summarized the strategy Wednesday in an email response: “We’ll win by getting more votes than the other guy.”
The two incumbents have combined to spend more than $4 million on the race, much of it on advertisements that attacked each other.
That spending does not include outside money being dumped in Louisiana by Washington, D.C.-based political action committees, called Super PACs. FreedomWorks for America, a self-described conservative group that helps tea party organizations, is spending money on behalf of Landry. The American Hospital Association PAC is backing Boustany, a former surgeon.
In the rest of the state, all the incumbent congressmen won with relative ease.
The only close race involved Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, who won outright with 158,184 votes or 55 percent of the total ballots cast, against four opponents, according to the complete but unofficial tally by the Secretary of State’s office.
Richmond’s 2nd congressional district now snakes from New Orleans all the way into most of northern Baton Rouge.
Richmond, who did not respond to interview requests Wednesday, won largely because he took 86,656 or 69 percent of the 125,324 votes cast in Orleans Parish. He also won East Baton Rouge Parish with 19,384 votes or 53 percent of the 36,424 cast, according to the Secretary of State’s Office.
His closest opponent was Democratic businessman Gary Landrieu of New Orleans, who received 71,761 votes or 25 percent of the total. Landrieu said he was hoping his last name would give him an extra push, although his cousins, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., endorsed Richmond.
Otherwise, the Louisiana congressional delegation is focusing its efforts back on Washington, D.C. President Barack Obama will remain in power while Republicans will continue to hold the House and the Democrats strengthened their control of the Senate.
Sen. Landrieu said, “We must focus on strengthening our economic recovery, solving our long-term debt challenges and finding a way to address our nation’s infrastructure deficit, particularly as it relates to water resources from flood protection to ports and maritime, which if not tackled will cripple our long-term recovery.”
Rep. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, said he hopes Obama and the Democrats will focus more on bipartisanship.
“It’s going to be time for the president to truly reach across the aisle,” Scalise said, and not just offer “lip service.”
“There is common ground on a lot of things,” Scalise said.