Election Notebook, August 13

In this edition – Vitter and Melancon are clobbering each other, Cedric Richmond’s skeletons tumble out of his closet and the battle lines are drawn in the District 3 GOP primary scuffle.

DAVID HATFIELD, CHARLIE MCCOY? – It was inevitable that the David Vitter/Charlie Melancon U.S. Senate race would get nasty, so it’s not a surprise that this is one of the ugliest races we’ve seen.

But it’s butt-ugly.

Vitter’s people accuse Melancon of drafting Chet Traylor as a stalking horse candidate, and the latest ad from the Vitter campaign makes note of the fact that he used his congressional office budget (aka your tax dollars) on a $50,000 Tahoe he drives around Washington…

The ad is brutal, but of course Vitter isn’t the only one throwing mud. Melancon spokesman Jeff Giertz’ response to the ad borders on the berserk:

“He (Vitter) is starting this race just like he’s spent his career,” Giertz said in a written statement. “Lying, attacking and hiding his face instead of explaining his ongoing disrespect for women…”

And Melancon has a new ad out now, too, in which he is personally on camera calling the Senator a liar:

CEDRIC THE FIST – In the 2nd District race, Democrat frontrunner Cedric Richmond is being “vetted” by the national media, as a pair of not-so-old skeletons have made their way into the light.

The sort-of-conservative Frum Forum ran with a piece yesterday noting two Richmond embarrassments of recent vintage which have come to light again now that it appears Richmond is ahead of fellow state representative Juan LaFonta in the Democrat primary.

The first involved Richmond’s failed 2005 run for the New Orleans City Council. Richmond attempted to run in District D, but a voter’s lawsuit challenged his domicile. And it turned out Richmond didn’t live in the district for which he was running.

The state Supreme Court wasn’t amused – at all. The Supremes pulled Richmond’s law license for six months as a result. He was already a state legislator at the time.

But while the domicile kerfuffle had been aired in the media, something perhaps even more humiliating has also come to light – namely, that he was arrested for playing Michael Spinks in a Baton Rouge barroom in 2007.

It seems that Richmond was hanging around the pool table at Uncle Earl’s, a Perkins Road dive often frequented during Happy Hour by political types, and got into a heated argument with another bar patron which ultimately resulted in first shoving and then rolling on the floor fighting before other patrons intervened to break the donnybrook up. The police report says  “it did appear that alcohol did play a large part in the incident.”

Richmond ended up beating the rap after being arraigned, but it’s definitely going to be grist for campaign spots. Generally speaking it’s preferable that a Congressman fight FOR the public rather than WITH us.

DISTRICT 3 THREE-WAY – The three Republicans scuffling for a shot at Democrat nominee Ravi Sangisetty for the Congressional seat currently held by Charlie Melancon have been “differentiating” themselves with the primary election just two weeks away and a debate hosted by the Baton Rouge Tea Party and the Tea Party of Louisiana set for Tuesday night.

First, Jeff Landry – who appears to be the frontrunner based on the limited amount of polling there has been done on the race – claimed a major endorsement from the Lafourche Parish Republican Party this week. Landry’s strength in the race has been his laying of groundwork with conservative organizations both local – he previously received endorsements from GOP committees in Iberia, Ascension and St. Martin Parishes – and national (the Family Research Council, Conservatives of America and American Conservative Union and Americans For Tax Reform have all weighed in in his favor). But with those bouquets came some brickbats, including a spate of radio ads from former Louisiana House Speaker Hunt Downer, whose campaign appears to be gaining on Landry to an extent. And Downer campaign manager Buddy Boe had this to say about the endorsement:

“Hunt respects the decision of the PEC but believes the final weeks of the campaign will illustrate to the voters exactly the type of politician Mr. Landry is,” he said, “mudslinging, dirty and misleading. We are working on the endorsement of the voters of south Louisiana and look forward to bringing them our message of strong, conservative principles based on the Constitution.”

Landry’s campaign put out an e-mail earlier this week in response to the ads:

Just like Obama and Pelosi, whenever a Democrat gets attacked based on facts all they can do is make stuff up to respond.

Today, 28-year Democrat State Representative Hunt Downer has started running a radio ad attacking me.

Apparently now that a neighboring Parish – near his home – the Lafourche Parish Republican Committee has endorsed me; Mr. Downer is starting to lose control. I now have the Lafourche Parish endorsement, the Ascension Parish endorsement, the Iberia Parish endorsement and the St. Martin Parish endorsement. I am excited to have endorsements from the vast majority of Republican and conservative leaders right in South Louisiana.

I want you to know the facts so you can send this to your family, friends and neighbors.

It is absolutely laughable that Downer would claim that I am a Washington insider. Downer has proudly taken large amounts of lobbyist money from Washington, DC. In fact his campaign used social networking to note his trips to Washington to ask for Washington support.

Second, his claims (which are just bizarre) that I have somehow harmed investors is completely false. My business, like many successful businesses, has faced frivolous lawsuits from those seeking to take our money. But I never lost a legal fight with my businesses. In fact, in the one instance where someone was successful, another judge overturned it and not only dismissed that case but actually forced those people to pay me, and my business, rather than the other way around. It is cases like that which made me want to go to Loyola Law and why I spend my time trying to help other job creators here in South Louisiana so we can grow our economy. I have always worked to create jobs.

Hunt Downer is not only a three decade Democrat, he is also a trial lawyer when he is not politicking. He may be able to trick juries or some judges into giving him big awards for lawsuits – but he will not force me to back down in pointing out his liberal thirty year record of raising taxes, working as a lobbyist for Democrat Governors and liberal values.

Downer’s longtime membership in the Democrat Party is Landry’s trump card, and it’s being played repeatedly. We’ll find out whether that will work in two weeks.

Meanwhile, dark horse candidate Kristian Magar claimed an endorsement this week from the TEA Party of South Louisiana.

“Kristian embraces and exhibits the ideals that we stand on,” said Ruben LeBlanc, the group’s co-founder and president, “adherence to the Constitution and fiscal conservatism.”

Again, though, in this race there are no bouquets without brickbats. The Landry campaign’s response to Magar’s endorsement was, “Who?” This from Landry’s political consultant Brent Littlefield…

FYI  In his desperate bid to look relevant, Kristian Magar sent out a press release claiming he was endorsed by the tea party.

Please note that his “tea party” group does not exist – or did not exist until recently.

Jeff Landry is the only candidate who consistently attended tea party rallies in his region since they began – not looking to score political points but looking to point out the wasteful spending in Congress.

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