Vitter tells town hall meeting he’ll sit out 5th congressional district race

With political punches already being thrown among fellow Republicans in the race for the 5th Congressional District seat, U.S. Sen. David Vitter said Thursday that he likely will remain on the sidelines.

Vitter, R-La., said he does not want to choose between state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, and state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe.

“I don’t expect to endorse anyone. In general, I don’t get involved in races ... and that’s very often true, not always, but very, very often true, when there are two significant Republicans,” Vitter said.

Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, recently announced he would not seek another term.

He accelerated his departure from Congress by accepting a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.

Riser quickly jumped on the campaign trail and gathered endorsements from U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; and John Fleming, R-Minden.

Morris contends the GOP plotted to give Riser a head start for the Oct. 19 primary election.

“Obviously it’s a very quick election, and it’s obvious that didn’t happen by accident,” Vitter said Thursday when asked if he thought Jindal had a hand in the timing.

As for another upcoming election the 2015 governor’s race Vitter said he is not devoting much time to considering whether he will be a candidate.

“I have actively not thought about it because I’m enjoying being a thousand percent focused on my job, and (the election is) eons away politically,” Vitter said. “I haven’t thought about it enough to know when I plan to start thinking about it or if I plan to start thinking about it.”

Vitter was in Baton Rouge for a town hall meeting at the Jones Creek Regional Branch Library.

The early morning meeting drew so many people that a neighboring bank stationed an employee in the parking lot to reserve spaces for customers’ vehicles.

More than 100 people packed a large meeting room at the library. Many stood throughout the roughly one-hour meeting because they could not find an available chair.

Vitter fielded questions on the war against terrorism, flood insurance and term limits.

A query about the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare, prompted a boisterous chant from the crowd of “Shut down the government!” Obamacare is a federal law that expanded health care coverage.

Vitter said it is not too late to stop Obamacare and vowed to oppose any funding bill that includes the health care program.

Then he urged the audience to adopt a different strategy by helping unseat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. He said Landrieu cast the deciding vote on Obamacare.

“It’s not how we vote in Congress, but how we vote in America,” Vitter said.

He said a key race comes next year when U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, tries to oust Landrieu, D-La., from office.

Vitter gave Cassidy 50/50 odds of succeeding.

“It’s going to be a very competitive race. Very competitive,” he said.

From the back of the meeting room, 15-year-old Eric Ecuyer’s hand shot up each time Vitter paused to take a new question. After failing to attract the attention of Vitter’s microphone-toting aides, Ecuyer moved closer to the front of the room and finally got to ask about the U.S. embassy attack in Benghazi in Libya.

Four Americans, including an ambassador, were killed in 2012 at a compound. Controversy continues on whether the U.S. could have done more to prevent the deaths.

Ecuyer suggested that the president used the U.S. military to fetch his dog but failed to send help for the Americans.

“This needs to be a continuing conversation,” Vitter said.