Beam: Boustany critics way off base

By By Jim Beam / American Press

Louisiana’s six congressmen are running for re-election this year, but the focus here and statewide has been on the heated

contest involving U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia. Three other candidates are also

running for the redrawn 3rd Congressional District seat, but only Ron Richard, the lone Democrat, has an outside chance of

winning or making a runoff.

Most of the nation has been focused on

the presidential campaign, but congressional races also deserve the

close attention

of voters. Congress will have as much to say about the future of

this country as its chief executive, and it’s time to turn

some attention to that arena.

Landry has conducted his campaign

pretty much as expected. Three years ago he was elected to the former

3rd District seat

after malicious attacks on the character and reputation of Hunt

Downer, a dedicated public servant. Downer is a former speaker

of the Louisiana House of Representatives, decorated military

veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, outstanding citizen

of his community and a leader who has served his state and country

well.

The tea party helped Landry carry out

his vicious assault on Downer, and it has once again come to Landry’s

rescue. When the

Legislature redrew congressional election lines in 2011, it forced

Boustany and Landry into the same district. The tea party

and others tried to give Landry an edge when it supported efforts

to put Calcasieu Parish in the congressional district based

in Shreveport.

Landry supporters knew Calcasieu was strong territory for Boustany. However, through the efforts of Boustany and united support

from political and civic leaders in Calcasieu and Lafayette parishes, both stayed in the 3rd District.

Now, Landry is working through Geaux

Free TPL, formerly called the Tea Party of Lafayette, and Freedom Works,

a Washington,

D.C., conservative organization devoted to helping the tea party

movement. Like their candidate, the organizations don’t hesitate

to twist facts.

Both accused Boustany of not signing a

no-tax pledge and said Landry, their candidate, was the only one

supported by the National

Right to Life Committee. The accusations were false, and Boustany

called their hand, noting that he had signed the pledge

and was backed by the anti-abortion group.

“Jeff Landry and his Washington cronies

Freedom Works have had plenty to say about me and my record for the

entirety of this

campaign,” Boustany said. “They have habitually lied about my

positions regarding the sanctity of life, repealing Obamacare,

support for Israel and tax policy, with little regard for the

truth.”

Joyce Linde, coordinator for Geaux Free TPL, said the mistakes were accidental, were being corrected and “nothing was done

intentionally.” However, considerable damage may have already been done.

Landry has never been shy about stretching the truth, and perhaps his most intentional effort to damage Boustany has been

to consistently call his opponent a liberal. Louisiana has only two liberals in its congressional delegation, and both are

Democrats —­ U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, both of New Orleans.

Boustany said, “Since his first speech announcing his campaign for re-election, Jeff Landry has continued to distort the facts

and lie about my record.”

Pearson Cross, chairman of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told The Advocate

newspaper that Boustany is competent, serious, a hard worker, studies the issues and is well-liked in Washington.

Landry brags about having the support

of the majority of Republican executive committees in the district, but

the endorsement

he got from the Calcasieu Parish committee was a sham. It came out

of the blue, and numerous Republicans in the parish protested

the devious way it was planned and executed. Few candidates seek

seats on parish executive committees, and they have a hard

time filling vacancies. The tea party has always been more than

willing to fill the void.

The United States is facing a multitude of problems, and it needs capable leadership in Congress to find solutions. Nothing

of substance will get done until both parties are willing to make some compromises. Boustany has demonstrated he can make

tough decisions and take unpopular stands when the country’s best interests are at stake.

The two men disagree on whether

Congress should hold a lame-duck session after the Nov. 6 election.

Boustany thinks it’s important

in order to work on tax and defense cuts, a farm bill and veterans

clinics proposed for Lake Charles and Lafayette. Boustany

said language authorizing funding for those clinics is essential

in order to get the often-delayed projects up and running.

Boustany is a member of the powerful

House Ways and Means Committee that deals with tax and budget issues. He

is closely allied

with the strong House Republican leadership and is in line to

become a power broker in Congress. Southwest Louisiana has been

well-served by Boustany for eight years, and he is in a position

to bring about bigger returns in the future.

The choice in this congressional race

is clear. Voters can choose substance (Boustany) or show (Landry). The

attacks on Boustany

from Landry and other critics have had serious credibility

problems. The 3rd District and the country need Boustany back in

Congress.

• • •

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