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Beam: Turnout is key in 3rd District

Last Modified: Sunday, November 25, 2012 10:40 AM

By Jim Beam / American Press

U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, needed less than 6 percentage points on Nov. 6 to win the 3rd Congressional District seat. He received 44.7 percent of the total vote. Now, it’s a runoff contest between Boustany and U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia, who polled 30 percent in the primary.

The winning strategy is simple. Both have to get their voters to the polls, but that won’t be as easy as it sounds. The presidential race that attracted a large number of voters is over, and most local issues in the 10-parish 3rd District were settled.

The 3rd District race is the only thing on the ballot in Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis, Lafayette and St. Martin parishes. The district has only 5 of the 99 precincts in St. Landry Parish. Acadia Parish has a Rayne mayor’s contest, Iberia a New Iberia council seat race, St. Mary a state court of appeal contest and Vermilion a Kaplan city marshal’s race.

Boustany carried Acadia, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jeff Davis, Lafayette, St. Landry and Vermilion parishes on Nov. 6. Landry was the leader in Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes.

Lake Charles attorney and Democrat Ron Richard came in third, picking up 21.5 percent of the vote. He has since endorsed Boustany in the runoff. Richard said he thinks Boustany would best represent the people who supported his (Richard’s) candidacy.

“I am proud of his assurances and commitment to addressing the concerns of my constituents,” Richard told the Times-Picayune. “I’ve seen first-hand how deep-rooted his support and organization runs in this district, and I am proud to endorse him. Dr. Boustany will show up every day to cast his vote and represent all the voices of our region.”

Getting Richard’s backing was good for Boustany, but it doesn’t necessarily translate to widespread support among Democratic voters. They re-elected President Obama, the main reason they were motivated to vote. The question now is whether they believe it’s important enough to make that trip to the polls again on Dec. 8 to support a Republican their state party won’t endorse.

Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, told the Times-Picayune, “Ron’s his own man. He has to make his own judgment calls on what’s important.

“I think he’s probably making the judgment that out of the two, Boustany is going to create the least amount of damage.”

Landry said Richard’s support for Boustany proved he (Boustany) supported the policies of President Obama, which is about as far-fetched as you can imagine. However, it’s typical of Landry’s method of operation — he throws stones in any direction, hoping they will hit something or someone.

Both candidates are making much ado about their endorsements. Richard’s backing is definitely significant for Boustany, but endorsements don’t always motivate others to get out and vote.

Pearson Cross, chairman of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told The Advocate Boustany is going to have to work hard to motivate his supporters.

Boustany told the newspaper his campaign is up to the task.

“We have a great voter turnout operation,” he said. “He (Landry) can’t hide behind Richard anymore. He knew, in a head-to-head race, it wasn’t going to be pretty for him.”

The Advocate said the race has been described as a classic contest between a tea party freshman (Landry) and Boustany, a veteran congressman allied with the Republican House leadership.

That is the primary reason to vote for Boustany. He can help get things done. The two men are poles apart when it comes to how they believe Congress works.

Boustany supported the lame duck session of Congress that is now under way. This country faces some major financial problems that need immediate attention. For one, something has to be done about the fiscal cliff coming on Jan. 2 — the $500 billion in tax increases and spending cuts.

Landry opposed the current session, insisting it would only result in bad compromises. Tea party folks hate compromises; it’s that simple. They love to make a lot of noise and grind the legislative process to a halt. Tea party enthusiasts and their no-tax stand helped create the do-nothing atmosphere that has existed in the nation’s capital far too long.

Some Republicans lost their seats Nov. 6 because of their no-tax pledge. And there are new members of the GOP who see no need to sign away their future options by supporting such promises.

Boustany’s strong suit is his ability to effectively serve the people of his congressional district while maintaining his conservative principles. He has given voters no legitimate reason to oppose him on Dec. 8. The voters in his former 7th District gave him overwhelming support in the primary.

Cross said Boustany is more likely to attract a mix of conservatives, moderates and some Democrats.

“The large and more general the electorate, the better for Boustany,” he said.

The presidential election is over, and it’s time for both parties to work for the country’s best interests. The nation is deeply divided down the middle. Democrats and Republicans need to find some common ground. Boustany can get us there much quicker than Landry.

• • •

Jim Beam, the retired editor of the American Press, has covered people and politics for more than five decades. Contact him at 494-4025 or jbeam@americanpress.com

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