GOP in­cum­bents in bit­ter face­off for sur­vival in Louisiana

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY ROBERT BUCK­MAN

LAFAYETTE, LA. | Even in a state known for its col­or­ful po­lit­i­cal con­tests, the bat­tle be­tween two in­cum­bent Republicans in Louisiana’s 3rd Con­gres­sional Dis­trict may go down as one of the nas­ti­est ever.

When Louisiana lost one of its seven House seats af­ter the 2010 cen­sus, the state Leg­is­la­ture forced Reps. Charles W. Bous­tany Jr., 56, a four-term mem­ber from Lafayette, and fresh­man Jef­frey M. Landry, 41, a tea-party fa­vorite from New Ibe­ria, into a game of mu­si­cal seats.

For months, the two con­ser­va­tive in­cum­bents have been sav­aging each other like scor­pi­ons in a bot­tle, blitz­ing the nine-parish, pre­dom­i­nantly Ca­jun dis­trict in south­west­ern Louisiana with TV com­mer­cials, di­rect-mail fliers and robo­calls that as­sail each other’s vot­ing records and in­tegrity.

Mr. Bous­tany, a re­tired heart sur­geon, has ac­cused Mr. Landry, a lawyer and busi­ness­man, of tax delin­quency and of sup­port­ing a 23 per­cent na­tional sales tax that would “strand fam­i­lies on a tax and fis­cal cliff.” He also has said Mr. Landry op­posed a lame-duck ses­sion af­ter the Nov. 6 elec­tions to deal with the loom­ing se­ques­tra­tion cuts. His ads la­bel Mr. Landry as a “self-serv­ing, reck­less politi­cian.”

Mr. Landry, mean­while, has at­tempted to brush Mr. Bous­tany with the ul­ti­mate po­lit­i­cal smear in the Bayou State: “lib­eral.” His ads claim Mr. Bous­tany sup­ported key pro­vi­sions of Pres­i­dent Obama’s Af­ford­able Care Act, which Mr. Bous­tany de­nies. Mr. Landry’s TV com­mer­cials re­cite a litany of sup­posed “lib­eral” votes by Mr. Bous­tany, end­ing with a query bor­rowed from Bugs Bunny: “What’s up, Doc?”

Each has ac­cused the other, with lit­tle or no con­vinc­ing ev­i­dence, of an­other Louisiana po­lit­i­cal taboo: want­ing to raise taxes. Each claims to be more pro-life, more pro-gun, more pro-drilling and more fis­cally con­scious than the other.

Mr. Bous­tany has coun­tered Mr. Landry’s ac­cu­sa­tions with com­mer­cials in which he pro­claims him­self “your hon­est, con­ser­va­tive voice for south Louisiana.”

His new­est di­rect-mail fliers de­pict a lie de­tec­tor with the word “LIAR” on the screen. “We don’t need a lie de­tec­tor to tell us what Jeff Landry is,” it says. An­other shows Mr. Landry re­peat­edly writ­ing on a black­board, “I will stop ly­ing.”

In a new TV com­mer­cial, Mr. Landry ap­pears with a pic­ture of Mr. Bous­tany, re­buts his “fis­cal cliff” charge and says, “This guy, he’ll say any­thing to get his job back. I want my coun­try back.”

Asked dur­ing an ap­pear­ance at the Univer­sity of Louisiana at Lafayette what their re­la­tion­ship in the House was like be­fore they were forced to run against each other, Mr. Landry said, “I don’t think Charles is a bad per­son. I just don’t agree with his poli­cies.”

Mr. Bous­tany had a less-char­i­ta­ble as­sess­ment of his op­po­nent af­ter a fundraiser in Lafayette.

“I take the job se­ri­ously,” he said. “I show up for work. He doesn’t. He’s missed over 60 votes. He’s more se­ri­ous about pol­i­tics and games.”

Af­ter sev­eral un­suc­cess­ful at­tempts to bring the two men to­gether for a de­bate, they squared off Oct. 31 at a Lafayette ra­dio sta­tion for a some­times ac­ri­mo­nious one-hour ex­change dur­ing which they both largely re­hashed the same ac­cu­sa­tions.

Mr. Bous­tany ac­cused Mr. Landry of ly­ing about his record and of “good old boy, wink-andnod pol­i­tics” while Mr. Landry in­sisted Mr. Bous­tany had told MSNBC that he “sup­ported 80 per­cent of Oba­macare.” Mr. Bous­tany called that charge a dis­tor­tion of an in­ter­view be­fore the bill was passed and coun­tered that he had voted 30 times to re­peal Oba­macare.

He in­creased the num­ber of votes he said Mr. Landry has missed to 107, “in­clud­ing the Key­stone pipe­line. Jobs!” Mr. Landry re­but­ted that that was a non­bind­ing res­o­lu­tion “that was nowhere close to the force of law.”

Com­pli­cat­ing the race are three other can­di­dates: Ron Richard, 46, a Demo­crat and Lake Charles lawyer who calls him­self a “pro-union, Ed­win Ed­wards pop­ulist, yel­low-dog Demo­crat”; Bryan Bar­ril­leaux, 55, an­other tea-party Repub­li­can and Lake Charles physi­cian who has vowed not to raise or spend any money on the race, not even his own, in or­der to re­main in­de­pen­dent of spe­cial in­ter­ests; and Lib­er­tar­ian Jim Stark, a de­liv­ery driver with a high school ed­u­ca­tion and a Navy vet­eran of the Per­sian Gulf and Iraq wars.

Un­der Louisiana’s open-pri­mary sys­tem, all can­di­dates of all par­ties ap­pear on one bal­lot. The ques­tion is whether the three mi­nor can­di­dates will poll enough to throw the race into a Dec. 1 runoff.

Pear­son Cross, a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist with UL Lafayette, said “The odds are 3 to 2 that there will be a runoff.”

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