December 20, 2012
In the days before Saturday’s runoff election for Congress in southwest Louisiana, Rep. Jeff Landry, of New Iberia, called it a contest about the soul of the Republican Party.
If so, the voters sent a message that Landry did not want to hear.
The contest was won by the more-senior member of the party’s delegation in Congress, Charles Boustany, of Lafayette.
Boustany ran away with the runoff, prompted when a Democrat ran third and kept the four-term Lafayette congressman from an outright win on Nov. 6.
For Landry, a tea party favorite who was backed by some Washington conservative groups, the defeat ends his current service in Congress after one term. He had largely distinguished himself through bad manners, carrying a hand-lettered protest sign into the House chamber during a State of the Union speech.
The two Louisiana incumbents were thrown together in the newly drawn 3rd District because Louisiana lost a seat as a result of the 2010 Census. And most of the new district was Boustany territory, a fact reflected in the returns.
The race drew some attention, in part because Boustany is close to House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio. Had Landry upset Boustany, that would have been taken as a message, about tea party influence in the party and Boehner’s power in his GOP caucus. But despite Landry’s raising more than $2 million for this unequal battle, Boustany far out-raised the freshman member.
Boustany returns to the House next year. The retired heart surgeon is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee, so he will continue to be involved in major debates on taxation and health care policy.
Have we seen the last of Jeff Landry? Maybe not, as he showed himself a formidable fundraiser and that is an important talent in politics. What is suggested by the results — to a point, anyway — is that the tea party wind no longer ensures upset victories for its adherents.