Vitter Strong, but Jefferson
On Nov. 5, the candidates for the U.S. Congress will face off across the nation. With the political parties so evenly divided in Washington, many of these contests are generating interest and excitement; however, with the exception of the race to succeed John Cooksey in the 5th Congressional District, that is not the case in Louisiana. In the 5th District, former Congressman Clyde Holloway has been leading in the polls. Last week, Holloway announced that he picked up the endorsement of former New Orleans-area Congressman Bob Livingston. The race should generate a high turnout and, with multiple candidates in the race, produce a December run-off.
In metropolitan New Orleans, the races for the 1st and 2nd Congressional Districts have not generated much excitement so far. In the 1st District, incumbent David Vitter has a large war chest with more than $1 million in cash on hand, and a large lead in the polls. One of his opponents, radio talk show host Robert Namer, has been promising for months to drop a bombshell on his opponent, but has not yet provided any damaging revelations about Vitter. He told a recent gathering of the Kenner-based good government group Jefferson Alliance that he would produce a major story next weekend. The Jefferson Alliance was not impressed and summarily endorsed David Vitter.
In the 2nd Congressional District, incumbent Bill Jefferson is more vulnerable to a challenge from Public Service Commissioner Irma Muse Dixon. Jefferson has been hurt by his involvement in the Pennington for Mayor campaign and his daughter's losing race for state representative. Jefferson faced Gov. Mike Foster for Governor in 1999 and Foster is now returning the favor by endorsing and raising money for Dixon, with whom the governor cites a long personal relationship. Dixon is beginning to be viewed as a serious threat to Jefferson, and she gained even more momentum when, at its meeting, the Jefferson Alliance decided to endorse her. The only other major candidate in the race, Troy Carter, has shown no signs of mounting any sort of race. Jefferson was endorsed by the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee for re-election. With no candidate in the 1st Congressional District race, the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee made no endorsement.
Treen on the Road
Buoyed by polls that show him second in the race behind only Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Dave Treen confirmed his serious interest and intent to run for Governor. At a recent Republican forum in Mandeville, Treen indicated that he would soon be traveling across Louisiana to present his platform. According to Treen, "The only way I will not run will be if the voters reject my ideas on fiscal matters." Treen has not yet announced his platform but hints that it could involve tough medicine for the state.
While Treen prepares to travel the state, state Sen. Ken Hollis has now begun his advertising campaign with billboards across the state. Joining Hollis in an early advertising campaign is Democrat Claude "Buddy" Leach of Lake Charles. Leach has hired former Foster consultant Roy Fletcher and even launched his campaign for governor with a glitzy Internet announcement. Leach will have the deepest pockets of any of the gubernatorial candidates, promising to spend multiple millions of his own money to win the race. The last time a wealthy guy self-financed his own campaign for governor it worked out pretty well, so Leach is hoping the same formula works for him.
Leading Landrieu Ducks Debates
With her own poll showing her leading her major Republican opponents by almost 40 points, incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has little incentive to appear at forums and debates scheduled throughout the state. Several of them have been held -- the Baton Rouge Press Club, the Jefferson Crimefighters, and the Jefferson Alliance to name a few -- and Landrieu has avoided them all. In the weeks leading to Nov. 5, however, she is scheduled to appear on several televised debates.
Most Republicans still believe that Landrieu is vulnerable because of her support of Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, but that connection has not yet hurt her in Louisiana. The Landrieu poll showed the incumbent at 54 percent, Congressman John Cooksey at 19 percent, Elections Commissioner Suzanne Haik Terrell at 14 percent and State Rep. Tony Perkins at 6 percent. As expected, the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee has endorsed Mary Landrieu for re-election.