Worsening News for Vitter in Louisiana; Webster’s Landing Zone

Nov. 9, 2015 — We’ve been spending a lot of time analyzing and reporting upon the Louisiana governor’s race, and with good reason. It isn’t often that we see a sitting US senator who attempts to run for his state’s gubernatorial office fail to win. Yet that very scenario may occur later this month when Sen. David Vitter (R) attempts to switch offices.

The news got even worse for the embattled candidate yesterday when Republican Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, who placed fourth in the jungle primary last week, publicly endorsed Democrat John Bel Edwards. Dardenne’s message was obviously personal. “The Republican brand has been damaged by the failed leadership of Bobby Jindal during this last term. David Vitter’s governorship will further damage that brand as I and others have pointed out during the campaign,” he said with Edwards standing next to him at the podium.

As we’ve repeatedly cited, the governor’s race has been trending badly for Vitter during the past two months and the chances of a Democratic upset now appear good. Therefore, with his Senate seat in the cycle next year, what will happen to his federal position should Vitter lose the governor’s race?

It is reasonable to believe that should a Vitter loss occur, the state’s 2016 Senate election will become a more viable Democratic target opportunity. Originally believed to be a safe seat for a Vitter re-election, a new campaign involving the embattled senator would obviously be a difficult one should he seek another term.

To complicate matters, at least two members of the state’s congressional delegation, representatives Charles Boustany (R-LA-3) and John Fleming (R-LA-4), have already expressed interest in running statewide next year. Both, among others, are already vying behind the scenes to replace Vitter by appointment should he actually be elected governor.

Since Vitter is already willing to relinquish the Senate seat in exchange for becoming governor, it is reasonable to assume that, should he be unsuccessful on Nov. 21, he will not seek re-election. Such would actually be the best Republican Party scenario, because the state and national political leaders could then start anew with a fresh candidate, presumably either Boustany, Fleming, or another elected official, who could run free of the negative baggage that Vitter obviously possesses.

FL-10; 11

We have reported on several occasions that representatives David Jolly (R-FL-13), Gwen Graham (D-FL-2), and Daniel Webster (R-FL-10), will be left without seats once the new Florida redistricting plan is formally adopted. The state Supreme Court will likely take final action on Nov. 10.

Jolly is already abandoning his House re-election effort, and instead is running for the state’s open Senate seat. Graham says she will make a decision about her own political future after the new lines are officially adopted. It is unlikely that she will run for the House, and she, too, could hop into the Senate contest, or sit out a cycle and challenge for a statewide position in 2018.

Rep. Webster attracted a great deal of attention in the past few weeks by running for House Speaker even though his 10th District seat is sure to go Democratic, this by his own admission. But now, Webster may be finding a political life preserver. Rep. Rich Nugent’s (R) announcement this week that he will not seek re-election in the 11th District, which the court generally left intact as a Republican seat, is now open for the 2016 election. The 11th borders Webster’s Orlando-anchored district before moving northwest stretching as far as the city of Ocala. It is conceivable that Webster would have a fighting chance to win here in a Republican primary. He does have a home within the confines of this CD, which gives him some background within the region.

Earlier this week Webster confirmed that he is at least considering hopping into the 11th, likely his best option from which to continue his congressional career. But, it is certain that he will attract primary opposition from sitting and former elected officials who either already or previously represent large chunks of the current district.

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