Nastiness in 3rd District

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The hottest race for Congress this primary season turned out to be the Republican primary in the 3rd Congressional District, which stretches across Louisiana’s oil-soaked coastline from St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes on its eastern edge to St. Martin and Iberia parishes on its western side. The district also includes the coastal areas of Jefferson Parish. The main controversy involved the military records of the two front-runners, former House Speaker Hunt Downer of Houma, and Jeff Landry, an upstart (and well financed) challenger from New Iberia.

In the GOP primary, Landry called Downer, a retired major general in the Louisiana National Guard, “a disgrace to the uniform.” Downer responded that Landry has identified himself as “a veteran of Desert Storm” — even though he never set foot in Kuwait or Iraq during that war. Landry, who has support from elements of the Tea Party branch of the GOP, also blasted Downer, a former Democrat, for voting for taxes during his tenure in the state House.

The basis of Landry’s attack on Downer’s military record was Downer’s acceptance of the Kuwait Liberation Medal for his service during the first Gulf War in 1992. Downer spent 17 days in Kuwait during the conflict; Landry was stationed in the U.S. during that same period and left the service with the rank of sergeant.

“I have never claimed to have served in Iraq,” Landry explained to a reporter when questioned about his claim to be a Desert Storm veteran. “The only reason I didn’t go is because the war ended so quickly. I certainly never tried not to go.”

That’s still not quite the same as actually being there, even if it was only for 17 days. Landry further accused Downer of “using political connections and rank to get promotions while the rest of us sweated it out in Fort Hood.”

Sweating it out at Fort Hood? Gee, that must have been awful … while so many others had it so easy in Kuwait and Iraq.

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