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Inside Jeff Parish

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Blossman's New Plan
In the wake of his withdrawal from the U.S. Senate race, Public Service Commissioner Jay Blossman is now focusing on reelection to his current seat.

Last week, Blossman dropped out of the Senate race, citing "personal not political reasons." Even though Blossman will now be able to spend more time with his wife, Lynette, and 1-year-old son, Jack, a Blossman friend says that one factor in his withdrawal was unhappiness with the level of support received from Louisiana Republican Party leaders. Officially, the state party did not endorse either Congressman John Cooksey, the other announced Republican U.S. Senate candidate, or Blossman, but key party power brokers such as top donor Boysie Bollinger were strongly on board with Cooksey. In addition, influential consultant Roy Fletcher -- well-connected in the state Republican Party -- is involved in the Cooksey campaign.

A close Blossman advisor now reports that the public service commissioner will be ready to spend up to $500,000 to retain his seat. The Blossman campaign expects some opposition, but they do not believe leading Republicans such as Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon or former Jefferson Parish District Attorney Jack Capella will make a race since Blossman will be running for reelection.

One race that Blossman will not make is against incumbent U.S. Rep. David Vitter. With reports circulating that Foster is trying to recruit a candidate against Vitter, Blossman's name was mentioned in a recent "Inside Jeff Parish" column as a potential candidate. A Blossman advisor rules out such a scenario, but mentions that Blossman might seriously consider a race to succeed Vitter if he were elected governor.

Next Step in Senate Campaign
With Blossman leaving the Senate campaign, Congressman John Cooksey is the lone announced opponent facing incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.

That scenario leaves some national Republican leaders quite unhappy. According to one Beltway source, the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) is quietly trying to recruit another candidate into the race. This source reports that the NRSC has already talked to Louisiana Commissioner of Elections Suzanne Haik Terrell and Louisiana State Sen. Mike Michot of Lafayette. So far neither has been persuaded to launch a campaign against the powerful incumbent.

The three-candidate strategy involves forcing Landrieu into a run-off by having two opponents -- Cooksey and another Republican -- who attack Landrieu for months in a hard-fought campaign. Some believe that having three candidates is the only way to drop Landrieu support below 50 percent and force a run-off. In this scenario, a run-off against Landrieu would take place in December and be the only race in the country, allowing the national press and national Republican leaders to spend some time in the Bayou State to campaign against Landrieu.

What kind of resources would it take to wage that type of aggressive campaign against Landrieu? According to my Beltway source, at least $2 million, probably the reason more candidates have not joined Cooksey in the race.

Vitter Fights Back
In the past few weeks, a major feud has erupted between Gov. Mike Foster and Congressman David Vitter.

It all started when Vitter forcefully opposed the gambling compact signed by Foster and the Jena Band of Choctaw Indians to build a casino in Vinton. Foster did not take kindly to Vitter's criticism and neither did some Louisiana legislators.

In the current legislative special session, there is a bill proposed to prevent Vitter from using campaign funds raised in his race for reelection to Congress in any state campaign, such as a race for governor. Vitter has not been a favorite among many Louisiana legislators for years. Many resent him for what they perceive as his moral grandstanding during his tenure in the Legislature, as well as his pursuit and eventual passage of term limits.

As previously reported in this column, the candidates being mentioned to run against Vitter include radio talk show host Robert Namer. Vitter responds in a recent fundraising letter, writing that "we have learned in the past week that members of the old political guard are recruiting and funding one or more Republican candidates to challenge me in my reelection bid this year." Some of the opponents mentioned in the letter include Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee and Namer.

"It's just so disappointing that my fight against a bad casino deal creates this fierce reaction," he continues. "It's especially disappointing when Republicans and alleged conservatives are involved."

Vitter concludes the letter, which shows he is prepared for a fight not only against the governor but also for re-election, by asking for financial support.

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