Election Notebook, July 19 Edition

In this update: Vitter’s weekend of “teeing it high and letting it fly,” taking a look at the financial disclosures in the state’s Congressional races, and the media attention coming out of Butch Gautreaux’s Lieutenant Governor bid.

VITTER LETS ‘EM HAVE IT: On Friday, Sen. David Vitter was on Rush Radio WRNO-FM in New Orleans, a conservative talk station, discussing various political items, and got into an exchange on the subject of uber-lefty MSNBC host Rachel Maddow – whose mannish appearance has been the source of much commentary on the Right. The exchange was a rather lighthearted one, but it generated some controversy relatively immediately after the Senator quipped, in response to a reference to old pictures of Maddow which show her to be considerably more feminine than she currently is, that “it must have been a long time ago.”

The exchange, transcribed by the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent, went like this:

MALE HOST: I wonder if Senator Vitter is ever going to post, like, maybe the video of the first time he was on the floor of the Senate. If I have to show the way I looked the first time I was on TV, you should do that too.

VITTER: We should go further back than that, how about high school yearbook?

MALE HOST: Oh yeah.

VITTER: De La Salle marching band.

MALE HOST: That’d be cool. Well you know, with Rachel Maddow they had that picture of her…

FEMALE HOST: Looking like a woman.

MALE HOST: Yeah it was really bizarre.

VITTER: [LAUGHS]: Must have been a long time ago.

ALL THREE: [HEAVY LAUGHTER]

Vitter sent Maddow a note of apology on Friday:

Dear Rachel,

Regarding my remark during a radio conversation today, I apologize.

The hosts made their comment and I obviously chimed in. While we do not usually agree on the issues, I do not think you deserved that comment.

Sincerely,

David

But Vitter has not apologized for another quip he shot forth on Sunday. The latter one took place during his appearance on Fox News Sunday, when the Senator accused the Obama administration of trying to move the Gulf Oil Spill “off the front page” instead of actually handling it.

 “I’m afraid he’s decided to deal with this issue, at least politically, by not coming back here and trying to move it off the front page rather than dealing with the situation forcefully,” Vitter said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“He was coming here on a pretty regular basis. … He hasn’t done that in Louisiana since June 4. That’s personally disappointing to me.”

No word on either subject from either Vitter’s opponent, Congressman Charlie Melancon, or the Louisiana Democrat Party. Both usually seize on everything the Senator says, but so far they’ve been silent.

THE MONEY: After last week’s 2nd quarter campaign financial disclosures, some interesting analysis has come about and it’s beginning to look like relative newcomer Jeff Landry is in a rather commanding position in the most wide-open race in the state, the 3rd District House race.

Landry’s current stash of $379,000 puts him in a very strong position in comparison to his competitors – Hunt Downer on the GOP side and Democrat Ravi Sangisetty. Downer, despite a late start, claimed an impressive $279,000 in receipts against $35,000 in expenses and holds $244,000 on hand, while Landry has raised $495,000 and spent $116,000.

Sangisetty, however, claimed the greatest fundraising haul – $544,000. But he’s only got $283,000, due to the fact that the Democrat spent $261,000 without even having a primary opponent. That’s an extremely high burn rate under the circumstances, and reports that Sangisetty  spent $35,000 to commission a poll from an outfit from Florida last month (the results of which the campaign did not publicize, which isn’t a good sign) indicate the fiscal discipline might not be what the textbooks would call for.

Of course, the cash is flying in furious fashion in the other contested House race – that being the one in the 2nd District. Incumbent Joseph Cao is the raise-and-spend champion among the state’s congressional candidates, having reeled in $1.402 million so far and spent $1.042 million, with $359,000 on hand. Cao doesn’t have a GOP challenger, so he’ll await the results of the primary between Cedric Richmond (raised $493,000, spent $241,000, $250,000 on hand) and Juan LaFonta (raised $253,000, spent $223,000, $30,000 on hand).

The only other race set for a contest on Nov. 2 is the 4th District contest in North Louisiana. Incumbent Republican John Fleming has raised a healthy $1.16 million and spent $732,000 so far, with $433,000 on hand. Fleming’s likely Democrat challenger David Melville, a Baptist minister, has raised $77,000, $76,000 of which he still has on hand.

(Source: OpenSecrets.org)

GAUTREAUX GETTING PUBLICITY, SAYS MORATORIUM WILL BE OVER IN 30 DAYS: Democrat Butch Gautreaux, a state senator from Morgan City who by default appears his party’s standard bearer in the Lieutenant Governor’s race this fall, made news late last week by telling a local radio station he expects the Obama administration’s moratorium will be over soon.

Gautreaux said he is for “safe drilling” and that he understands President Obama’s concerns.

“But I don’t think six months are necessary, if the federal government has its resources together,” Gautreaux said. “As soon as they start inspections, I think they could be wrapped up in a matter of weeks.”

“We don’t need to lose more lives because we need to take care of the economics of the oil industry,” Gautreaux said. “We need to be respective of the lives lost, the families who have lost loved ones, and at the same time, the lives living aboard and working on these rigs, and their families who live without their loved ones 14 days more or less, out of every month.”

The senator stressed that he wants to see people, “back at work as soon as possible,” but conversely, the inspections should not be done, “recklessly.”

If Gautreaux has information others don’t, it’s going to increase his profile, obviously. But if he doesn’t, that statement will be fodder for his opponents in the upcoming.

Nevertheless, the Democrat is getting some media attention. A piece by freelance political writer Jeremy Alford on Gautreaux ran in the Houma Courier today outlining some of what Gautreaux is looking to do as the state’s Lieutenant Governor…

Gautreaux said the Deepwater Horizon explosion and subsequent spill prompted him to jump into the fray.

“We have got to get past this,” he said. “One way is to begin promoting tourism within. We need people from New Orleans to go and visit Shreveport. We need people from Monroe to come and stay at a bed and breakfast in Terrebonne.”

As for the office, Gautreaux said he has big plans.

“The first thing I would do if elected would be to review all of the programs,” he said. “I already know there’s waste there. I would also run a more friendly office. I want to interact with the Legislature and reach out to stakeholders and bring in new ones like chambers of commerce.”

Gautreaux’s legislative Democrat colleagues Sen. Joel Chaisson (Destrehan), Sen. Eric LaFleur (Ville Platte) and Rep. John Bel Edwards (Amite) are helping him to raise money. A fundraiser with a minimum contribution of $1,000 will take place in downtown Baton Rouge for Gautreaux Wednesday.

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