With just 10 days to go until Election Day in the Republican primary, the race to replace Charlie Melancon as the congressional representative from the 3rd District of Louisiana has become more and more interesting, with charges and countercharges, strong performances and inexplicable no-shows.
The topsy-turvy nature of the race took an even stranger turn last night, when former Louisiana House Speaker Hunt Downer – who was largely acclaimed as the winner of a debate airing on WDSU-TV in New Orleans Sunday night – was a no-show at a debate in Prairieville put on by the Baton Rouge Tea Party and the Tea Party of Louisiana.
Downer’s absence, which his camp attributed to a scheduling problem – he had a fundraiser last night – could put the brakes on a campaign which had seemingly gained a good bit of momentum in the last two weeks. Downer’s fundraising, which had lagged behind Landry’s owing to something of a late start in the campaign, has caught fire in recent days – his campaign had reeled in $156,000 in the seven-week reporting period ending last week, compared to $44,000 for Landry.
And while Landry had picked up endorsements from parish Republican Party groups in St. Charles and St. John, to go with endorsements from the party organizations in Ascension, Iberia, Lafourche and St. Martin, he had also received criticism from campaign ads deemed negative by local newspapers. Landry’s ads hit Downer on his long record in the state legislature, most of which was spent as a Democrat and some of which was spent as a legislative liaison for former Democrat Gov. Kathleen Blanco. The ads hit home on a tax record many conservatives find questionable, but perhaps over the top in styling Downer as pro-gay and pro-abortion. Its tag line, that Downer spent three decades as a liberal Democrat, got mixed reviews.
Downer’s campaign responded with an attack on Landry arising from a business dispute-turned-lawsuit several years ago. Downer’s camp said this:
Downer campaign spokesman Buddy Boe said, “Because Jeff Landry has been deceiving the voters since day one, it is important that voters know the real Jeff Landry ― someone who has been successfully sued for fraudulent acts and the illegal conversation of funds. After four hurricanes in five years, an oil spill, and President Obama’s moratorium, the people of South Louisiana are demanding leadership, not someone with a checkered past who is known for dirty politics like Jeff Landry.”
The suit was filed in 26th Judicial District Court in Bossier Parish, Louisiana on July 1, 2004 (suit number 114782-B) by Jones Brothers Company against Jeff Landry, his business partner, and Landry’s company, UST Services Group. The suit alleged that Landry attempted in April 2004 to “fraudulently represent himself as an owner of Jones Brothers Company”, including creating fake “homemade letterhead”, to “seize an advance deposit” in the amount of $30,734 that the Chitimacha Tribe of Louisiana accidently mailed to the wrong address.
Landry, a law student at the time, was personally served with the suit, and after he lost, he didn’t appeal it. As a result, the 16th Judicial District Court in St. Martin Parish, noting that the judgment was final, ordered the Sheriff of St. Martin Parish in November 2004 to seize Landry’s property to pay back the funds with interest and pay for the plaintiffs’ attorney fees (suit number 68654-F).
Boe said, “Jeff Landry represents exactly what is wrong with Washington, and voters should consider his only record, which is in the courthouse, as they evaluate anything that he says.”
Landry’s campaign, as one might imagine, disputes Downer’s account of the suit. Political consultant Brett Littlefield, on the campaign’s behalf, had this to say:
Downer is trying to take a minor, private business dispute which Jeff Landry successfully defended, in which Landry prevailed, and turn it into an attack on Jeff’s reputation is laughable.
In a business dispute Jeff faced a lawsuit, they prevailed. He counter sued, the facts were on his side and they were forced to give up their suit and settle – they were going to lose in court. Jeff Landry prevailed. End of story.
Downer is only doing this to try and hide his record of massive taxes, liberal votes and the fact he worked as Blanco’s lead lobbyist.
Landry’s campaign says the matter was dismissed and put up a link to a court document supposedly proving their statement. Downer’s campaign fired back that he’s lying:
In a rush to deceive the voters yet again, Mr. Landry distributed a document supposedly illustrating that the lawsuits in question were dismissed. However, the document released by Mr. Landry was in regard to a different lawsuit in a different court (15th Judicial District Court in Lafayette Parish). That court’s ruling was only directed to the case in 15th Judicial District Court and could not and did not dismiss suits in other courts. “Since Mr. Landry touts his law school experience, I would hope he would know better than to try to fool the voters in this way,” said Boe.
Without further details it’s hard to make sense of this one, but you never want to play defense on your own history in a political campaign so Downer probably wins that round.
But skipping on the Tea Party debate changes the equation. Some 68 percent of the GOP electorate in the 3rd District identifies themselves with the Tea Party, and after Downer was a no-show at a debate put on by two of the largest Tea Party groups in the state the reaction is anything but pleasant.
Baton Rouge Tea Party president Jennifer Madsen told the Baton Rouge Advocate that the group isn’t going to make endorsements in the race, following its policy not to endorse individual candidates.
“However, if we can’t trust Downer to keep an appointment, how can we trust him to keep his word in Washington,” Madsen said.
Madsen also shared to TheHayride.com the e-mail from Sunday in which the Downer campaign, though Boe, told the group he would be skipping the debate…
I regret to inform you that General Downer will not be able to attend the debate Tuesday. There is an event that the General must attend that same night.
Hopefully, a debate will be held for the general election that the General can attend.
General Downer has spoken at several TEA party events in South Louisiana and respects and supports the efforts of the TEA parties throughout the nation.
Please contact us to participate in future debates.
Some members of BRTP and TPOL took the e-mail as a specific shot at their organizations – essentially that while Downer likes Tea Party groups generally, the ones in Baton Rouge don’t merit his attention. They’re not happy.
Meanwhile, the winner of the slugfest between Landry, Downer and Magar will face Democrat Ravi Sangisetty, who has been playing up the issue of Social Security on the stump in anticipation that he’ll get Landry – a proponent of reforming the entitlement program through private accounts.
Ravi Sangisetty, the only Democrat running in Terrebonne and Lafourche’s 3rd Congressional District, spent most of last week stumping on Social Security.
Sangisetty, a Houma attorney, said Social Security must be defended against those who want to turn it over to Wall Street or reduce its benefits.
It “has been a crucial part of the American promise for the last 75 years,” Sangisetty said. “Our seniors worked hard and played by the rules. They deserve to spend retirement with security and respect.”
Nearly one in three homes in Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes receives Social Security benefits.
Over the past quarter century, Social Security built a surplus of $2.5 trillion, which shrank as the federal government borrowed from it to pay for other programs.
Trustees predict Social Security will be out of money in less than 30 years.
“Washington stole from our future when they borrowed from Social Security,” Sangisetty said. “We need to recommit to our obligation to seniors and our children. We need to make sure Social Security sees its 150th anniversary.”
UPDATE: We said the Tea Party people were unhappy with Downer’s no-show last night. We weren’t kidding. This came from the Tea Party Of Louisiana:
Hunt Downer, who has been parading around as a ‘Tea Party Activist’ – and speaking to Tea Parties across the State – decided to SKIP the debate.
We have our suspicions as to why he skipped out:
1. Downer was a 30 year elected Democrat
2. Downer has a deep connection with Kathleen Blanco, serving as her chief lobbyist in 2006, and receiving 5000 in campaign contributions from her.
3. Downer Co-Chaired President Clinton’s 1996 pro-abortion, energy tax Campaign.
4. Hunt has a clear record of voting for tax and spend policies in the state house.
(Read hundreds of other reasons here: http://www.democrathuntdowner.com
The Tea Party of Louisiana WILL NOT sit quietly while a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing like Downer runs around and “pretends” to be a Tea Party Activist.
And we certainly did not spend the last 16 months, pounding the pavement, so that in November we would send the same old typical lukewarm fake-RINO politicians to Washington.
Actions speak louder than words. And Mr. Downer’s actions couldn’t speak any clearer. We will do EVERYTHING in our power to stop Hunt Downer from going to Washington.
Please help us spread the truth about Hunt before it is too late. Hunt Downer must be stopped.
DOWN WITH DOWNER!