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The Third Degree

GOP's Landry, Boustany Lock Horns for Single Cajun Country Seat in Congress

In Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District, two Republican incumbents - one Tea Partier and one Grand Old Partier - are squaring off in a winner-take-all battle for to represent Cajun Country in Washington.


Louisiana’s 3rd Congressional District begins just outside the Southern border of Orleans Parish (think Chalmette and then follow the water of the Gulf until you get to New Iberia), and is widely recognized as being comprised of “Cajun Country.” 


However, given the proximity and the numerous cooperative endeavor agreements that exist between local municipalities and even connecting private businesses, the district has many ties to Orleans Parish and the metro area. Thanks to last year's massive redistricting, two of Louisiana’s Republican Congressmen are fighting over the sole chair left between them following the 2010 Census.


And Then There Were...

Congressman Jeff Landry (R-New Iberia), took the district out of Democratic Party control during the Tea Party revolution in 2010—after they’d pulled off a hat trick of victories in 2004, 2006, and 2008. But now Landry is running to keep his seat. Landry has a tough race ahead with, many candidates to face, including fellow Congressional incumbent, Congressman Charles W. Boustany, M.D (R-Lafayette), who had been serving the 7th Congressional District.


The redrawing of Congressional Districts following the 2010 census put many towns across lines and reconfigured the state into fewer districts so that each voter would get the same weight in any election with their one vote. But with that, places like Lafayette were drawn in with other larger cities in the area, meaning Congressional candidates who had been serving in office for years (or decades) were suddenly in a musical chairs death match—and there are many players for the one chair left.


Normally, incumbents are widely favored going into races. Name recognition alone is a powerful force with some voters (the devil you know is better than the devil you don’t), but in a race with two incumbents, the water can get muddy. One example from the history books would be when then-former President “Teddy” Roosevelt’s Bull Moose Party split up the Republican vote enough for Democratic Presidential Candidate William Howard Taft to take office in the bitter 1908 election. (Fun fact: Louisiana’s 3rd District voted in a Bull Moose Progressive representative, Whitmell P. Martin, back in the 1914 election, meanwhile President Taft, who was famous for his size, went on to get stuck in the White House bathtub, so…)


Seein' Red

Both Landry and Boustany have been earmarked as the top dogs in the race, and their public tiffs have garnered them both attention in the press. Given national voting trends, Landry is being eyed as the possible favorite going into the election on November 6, because Congressman Boustany has been an incumbent for all of President Barack Obama’s term and most of President George W. Bush’s years as well, and old blood is now viewed as a bad thing.


Meanwhile, more recently elected Landry is still new to the game and has been very vocal in classic conservative speaking points, including a recent letter drafted this September, staunchly supporting investigations into abortions clinic records—in what the Congressman called, “ensuring patients receive the best medical attention at every stage of life, including the womb.” Landry also requested that the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) minor be taken off the school’s list of minors available for students—a move that sparked a Facebook spat between the congressman and his openly gay brother, whom Landry said, “we still love and pray for.”


Congressman Boustany, who is still representing the 7th as he runs for the 3rd, currently sits on the Ways and Means committee—which has a broad section of supervisory powers, including taxes, trade and income support for families. Boustany also chairs the Oversight Subcommittee, which has some say and reviews actions taken by the Executive Branch. This means any potential loss for Boustany means a loss of a key committee position for Louisiana (because, let’s face it, sometimes you need an insider on your side). Boustany is also a proponent of what he calls, “Louisiana Values” — meaning marriage is only between a man and a woman and opposition to abortion.


Of the other candidates in the race Dr. Bryan Barrilleaux is the only other Republican. A local medical practitioner, Barrilleaux’s campaign is based almost entirely on local support and came out of a petition signed by 1175 supporters submitted to the state. Barrilleaux says on his website that his locally run campaign is an attempt to eliminate any conflicting interests between his political promises and financial interests, and the website does delineate the good doctor’s position on various political issues (FYI: he’s for the Flat-Tax, shout-out to Steve Forbes).


The sole Democrat is this race is Ron Richard, who has received an endorsement from—shock and awe—the Louisiana Democratic Party, but his support has been mostly gleaned from Facebook likes. Richard had even declined an invite to debate at University of Louisiana Lafayette before the event was even canceled.


The final candidate on the ballot is Libertarian Jim Stark, who had served two tours in the Navy until 2005. Stark follows a 10-point platform, roughly outlined on his campaign website.


A Lack of Debate

Landry has been (somewhat) outspoken in challenging Congressman Boustany to debate publicly before November 6. A debate had been scheduled but subsequently canceled, due to time constraints and conflicts, leaving the two Congressman with ample opportunity to snipe at each other in the media with comments about possible tax issues and other real issues, only made snidely and sheepishly from the sidelines. Boustany has also turned down other offers for debates because he feels there is no panel that would be impartial or fair enough to moderate.


Landry has called Boustany ineffectual, for having so many years at the helm and not yielding enough results, and touts himself as the more conservative of the pairing and cites Boustany as having a “Liberal” record (like it’s a dirty word).


"We will never fix these problems until we remove the problem makers in Washington, Landry said in a public forum back in September. “Career politicians who care more about the next election than the next generation."


At the same forum, Boustany fired back an indirect strike, saying, “You need someone who is going to roll-up their sleeves…not just play politics.”


Boustany has also made comments in public about debating Landry outside of Rouses (because of some proposed tax increases on the goods could effect business). Landry said he’s game, but also said that Boustany would likely never agree because he’s too embarrassed of his record to even debate in his own hometown.


Barrilleaux sized up teh race during one of his talking points:


"For any of these incumbents to come here and tell us they're getting real results, but at the same time [they’re] tell us we are facing real problems and this… fiscal cliff, it is irresponsible.”


Thus far, no confirmed debate will occur between the two Congressmen, or any of their competitors, before the election. The 3rd District race is on the November 6 ballot.

Erin Rose
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