House district race La.’s costliest

U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany and Jeff Landry have combined to spend about $5.8 million in the nation’s only remaining congressional race.

The two incumbent Republicans have spent about $5.8 million — more than $3.7 million by Boustany, of Lafayette, and more than $2 million by Landry, of New Iberia — as of Nov. 18, according to Federal Election Commission records released this week.

The runoff election is Dec. 8 and, in the past 10 days, Boustany has reported raising another $113,000 in donations of $1,000 or more, while Landry has taken in nearly $80,000 during the same time frame.

Boustany claimed $732,000 in remaining cash on hand, while Landry had about $190,000. From Oct. 18 to Nov. 18, Boustany spent $1.07 million and raised $370,000 compared with $750,000 spent and $300,000 raised by Landry.

The two congressmen were forced to run against each other to represent southwestern Louisiana in the 3rd Congressional District because of redistricting. Louisiana loses a seat in Congress in January because the state’s population did not grow as fast as other states.

The newly redrawn 3rd District stretches along the coast, mostly south of Interstate 10, from St. Mary to Calcasieu parishes.

Pearson Cross, who chairs the political science department at the University of Louisiana Lafayette, said the spending has exceeded even his own high expectations. He said the race is easily one of the toughest and most expensive in Louisiana congressional history.

“It’s an enormous amount of money to be raised in a congressional race and that doesn’t even count outside money,” Cross said.

Cross was referring to 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. Likewise, the American Hospital Association PAC is backing Boustany, a former surgeon. With that money counted, the spending in the race easily exceeds $6 million and moves closer to $7 million.

“It’s a race that’s lived up to its billing as a knockdown, drag-out fight,” Cross said. “Neither wants to give an inch to the other.”

Both Boustany and Landry were traveling from Louisiana to Washington on Tuesday and did not respond to interview requests.

In the Nov. 6 open primary election, Boustany won nearly 45 percent of the vote in a five-man pool compared with 30 percent for Landry. Democrat Ron Richard, of Lake Charles, took in 21.5 percent of the vote.

With few other issues on the ballots, Cross said he expects much lower voter turnout on Dec. 8. The percentage of registered voters who go to the polls in the district could range from 28 percent to 34 percent, Cross said.

Cross said he expects Boustany to win the runoff with 56 percent or more of the vote for a “double-digit win.” Both candidates have run strong campaigns, Cross said, but most of the new district previously belonged to Boustany and he has served four terms without scandal while remaining “pretty popular.”

Cross has maintained that lower turnout helps Landry more because he has a more dedicated base of stronger conservatives who align themselves with the tea party movement.

“People are sick of elections,” Cross said. “Yet, we still have one more election to go, so it’s kind of a tough environment.”