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Debt on Arrival



  U.S. Sen. David Vitter's victorious re-election campaign against Congressman Charlie Melancon left Vitter with more than $442,000 of debt, according to campaign finance reports filed Jan. 20. The figure was remarkable on several counts, not the least of which was the whopping amount of money Vitter raised during the campaign: more than $12.5 million. Melancon raised less than $4 million.

  It was difficult not to notice the irony in Vitter's many fundraising emails during the race, which emphasized his fight against what he called the "Melancon/Obama big-spending, big-government agenda." An Election Day email signed by his wife, Wendy Vitter, assured supporters, "Without your dedication and long hours, we would not have been able to get out David's message of conservative reform and fiscal sanity to our fellow Louisianans."

  Meanwhile, in the Louisiana House races, the victorious candidates raised between $1 million and $2 million each, while defeated Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao took in just over $2 million. The victor in that race, new Rep. Cedric Richmond, raised only half that.

  Cao, who ended the election cycle with $33,000 of debt, will attempt to balance his books Feb. 3 at a "campaign debt retirement reception" hosted by Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser and others at a private home in New Orleans' Garden District. Suggested contribution for individuals and couples is $500.

  But others have it far worse. Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida, who emerged as a Democratic firebrand and progressive favorite in 2010, lost to new Congressman Daniel Webster by 18 percentage points. According to the Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call, Grayson's defeat left his campaign more than $1.6 million in debt, making the red-ink column of Vitter's and Cao's ledgers look puny by comparison. — Kevin Allman

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