Just as Republican state legislative leaders had designed when using their redistricting mapping software early in the year, Rep. Charles Boustany (R-LA-7) easily defeated freshman Rep. Jeff Landry (R-LA-3) in the new 3rd Congressional District, winning a 61-39 percent victory on Saturday.
Louisiana dropped a Congressional seat in national reapportionment, and even though the Republicans controlled the redistricting pen, it was obvious that their own party would lose a seat. As is typical of these situations, it was the freshman member who was put in the expendable position.
Prior to reapportionment, Louisiana had seven Congressional seats, six Republican and one Democratic. Since the New Orleans-anchored 2nd CD is a Voting Rights Act protected district, the Republicans had no other choice but to forfeit a seat. Thus, Rep. Landry’s southern state district that legislative leader Billy Tauzin, the former Energy & Commerce Committee chairman, once held was broken into pieces. Even though 7th District incumbent Boustany was placed in the pairing with Landry, the contest was never intended to be fair.
Boustany’s 7th District territory comprised 76 percent of the new 3rd CD, and included the congressman’s home and political base of Lafayette Parish. Landry’s New Iberia Parish domain was also transferred to the new 3rd, but the final configuration only contained 24 percent of his constituency. In the end, the district performed as intended. Each candidate racked up landslide proportions in their current regions, but Landry, having so little familiar turf, could not overcome the programmed disadvantage.
Boustany carried seven of the district’s 10 parishes, including Lafayette (71 percent), in the range of 68-75 percent. Landry took the three parishes from his former district, also in a similar percentage spread, winning New Iberia with a 70-30 percent margin and the other two parishes with 65 and 67 percent of the vote.
Louisiana also has a unique election system. Using their traditional “jungle” primary format where all candidates appear on the same ballot irrespective of political party affiliation, the state chooses to schedule their qualifying contest concurrently with the national general election. That way a majority of the vote elects the candidate obtaining such, and a run-off between the top two finishers scheduled for early December is held if no one tops 50 percent. Nationally, this makes at least some of Louisiana’s federal races the last to be decided.
Though Boustany finished first on Nov. 6th, his 44 percent total was well short of a majority, hence Saturday’s run-off. Only 19.3 percent of the district’s 500,592 registered voters participated in the run-off election, meaning 96,584 total votes were cast. Of that number, 16,835 people took advantage of the early voting option, meaning 82.6 percent of voters went to the polls this weekend.
Considering Louisiana’s tradition of not defeating incumbents of either party, Boustany can count on representing this seat at least until the end of the current decade. But, we may not have seen the last of Landry, either. Speculation was beginning to surface that, if he lost this run-off battle, we would see him enter next year’s Senate race against three-term incumbent Mary Landrieu (D). It is widely believed that Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA-6) is planning a Senatorial campaign, but this may not matter in the least to the now-defeated Landry.