3rd District Congressional Race Changing Shape With New Poll

What originally seemed an uphill climb for Republican newcomer Jeff Landry in the face of a more established political name in the way of the 3rd District congressional race might not quite be as advertised. As a result, the campaign to succeed outgoing Rep. Charlie Melancon is becoming more interesting.

A new poll commissioned by the Landry campaign and performed by TelOpinion Research finds that the New Iberia attorney and businessman has jumped ahead of veteran former state legislator, Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs head and recently-retired National Guard Major General Hunt Downer by a significant margin.

The poll surveyed 300 Republican households within the 3rd District on April 28-29, with a 5.7 percent margin of error. It finds that in a four-way GOP primary race which includes Landry, Downer and lesser-known candidates Chris Leapold and Kristian Magar the former holds a solid lead over the field. In that four-way race, Landry leads  Downer 29 percent to 16 percent, with Leapold and Magar polling 1 percent each. Some 52 percent still remain undecided.

In a two-way race between Landry and Downer, the numbers get even more interesting. Landry leads a head-to-head race with Downer by a 31-19 count, with 49 percent undecided.

The poll indicates that though Landry hasn’t yet built the name recognition in the district he’ll ultimately have as a result of the race moving to the forefront as primary season gets going, he’s managed to overcome the issue of Downer’s experience and goodwill within the people of the 3rd.

Of course, Downer hasn’t yet begun to run, as he was engaged in National Guard service until Friday of last week and that precluded his ability to raise money and put a campaign together. As he begins campaigning, Downer does bring assets to the table and he’s an attractive candidate. That should have translated into better poll numbers in the TelOpinion Research survey, however, and Landry’s presentation as a fresh face in an anti-establishment political year might be of more value than Downer’s impressive resume.

The movement toward Landry as reflected in the poll might have a substantive effect which may become evident this week. Downer was scheduled to address a Campaign For Liberty candidate forum on Saturday, but did not show for the event, leading to speculation in some quarters that he may not make the race after all. To date Downer has not made a formal announcement of his candidacy, though he’s said repeatedly he’s leaning toward running.

At this time, the only Democrat in the race is 27-year old lawyer Ravi Sangisetty, who claims to have raised some $400,000 in campaign funds. Sangisetty’s campaign finance report for the 1st quarter, however, indicates that the majority of his fundraising was accomplished through loans he personally made to the campaign and bank loans he took out on the campaign’s behalf – indicating that Sangisetty’s strategy of “astroturfing” his war chest in an effort to attract attention and momentum is evidence he isn’t finding broad-based support. Louisiana Department of Natural Resources secretary Scott Angelle was rumored as a Democrat candidate, but Angelle was appointed Lt. Governor by Gov. Bobby Jindal last week and is now considered unlikely to run. State Rep. Damon Baldone (D-Houma), another rumored candidate, is not currently engaged in campaign activity and might be too far behind with the legislative session occupying him until some time in June.

Party primaries in the race are scheduled for August 28.

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