Saturday's Winners And Losers

Winners…

1. Jeff Landry – for all the garbage delivered to his doorstep in rapid-fire fashion by the Hunt Downer campaign, Landry’s 65 percent showing in the 3rd District race was better than even his campaign were hoping for. With a 30-point rout, Landry may have dictated to Democrat nominee Ravi Sangisetty that a mudslinging personal campaign like the one Downer chose simply won’t resonate with the voters; he’s going to have to campaign on policy issues if he wants to beat Landry. And that’s going to be hard for a Democrat to do in a district hit hard by the Obama administration’s moratorium on offshore drilling.

But a release Saturday night by the Sangisetty campaign indicates we’re about to get another taste of mud. His campaign manager Julienne Uhlich sounded awfully familiar:

“The people of this district just endured yet another month of mudslinging from Jeff Landry,” Uhlich said. “Dirty politics are the hallmark of a Landry campaign. The issues are too important and the stakes too high.”

[sigh]

2. Jay Dardenne – Dardenne isn’t all that big a winner tonight, as the benchmark he was shooting for was something in the 30’s and he fell short at 28 percent, but when you run ahead of the field in a statewide race and better than 60 percent of the vote went for your party it’s hard not to feel good about the results. Dardenne will need to lock down support from the four other Republican candidates in the race – Sammy Kershaw, Kevin Davis, Roger Villere and Melanie McKnight – who combined made up 38 percent of the vote on Saturday. If he gets 100 percent of that vote and keeps his 28 percent of the primary vote he’s looking at a 66 percent ceiling. All he really needs is 58 percent of the Kershaw, Davis, Villere and McKnight vote, and he should easily get that.

3. Caroline Fayard – in her first race for elected office, Fayard earned a spot in the runoff. That makes her a winner this weekend, and it also establishes her as a rarity; namely, a Louisiana Democrat with something of a political future. It won’t get any easier for Fayard now, though, as the remaining Democrat share of the vote she can soak up from Jim Crowley and Butch Gautreaux won’t even get her past 35 percent. So she’ll have to pull support from the losing Republican candidates. That’s going to be tough to do.

4. Cedric Richmond – Richmond didn’t have to do anything to win this weekend, as a Democrat making the runoff in the Lt. Gov. race was like Christmas coming early. A Dardenne-Kershaw race would have given the Orleans Parish black vote little reason to turn out, but Fayard will improve that situation and give Richmond a better-than-average chance to unseat Joseph Cao in the LA-2 race Nov. 2. Cao’s campaign is going to need to drop some major napalm on Richmond, highlighting some of his ethical issues and painting him as another Dollar Bill Jefferson, or it’s going to be a long October for the New Orleans Republican.

5. Electpoll – Last week when the startup pollster out of Washington, DC released a survey in the 3rd District race saying Landry held a 66-34 lead over Downer, the Downer campaign called the poll a “fake” and a plant. As it turns out, though, Landry’s 65-35 margin was just one point off from Electpoll’s numbers – meaning their investment in polling the LA-3 race paid off perfectly as a test of their methodology and results. The fact that the Downer campaign screamed bloody murder about the poll merely called attention to Electpoll’s survey and gave them more visibility and, as it turns out, prestige.

Losers…

1. Buddy Boe – while Hunt Downer’s political career is surely over after the crushing defeat he suffered at Landry’s hands, the 25-year old Boe, who as campaign manager is responsible for what has universally been panned as one of the worst races a major candidate has run in Louisiana in recent years, might be done with a career in politics before he ever got started. Boe’s insistence on a campaign of baseless and petty attacks in 2010 – a year when the electorate is more interested in policy to the exclusion of everything else – wasn’t just a devastating mistake, it was avoidable. All he needed to do was to pay attention to the David Vitter-Charlie Melancon Senate race, the most high-profile in the state this year, and he’d see that personal attacks even against a candidate thought to be vulnerable to them simply don’t resonate. Instead, Boe chose to inundate the public with a ceaseless string of provable falsehoods – and the electorate rejected it completely out of hand.

2. The Tea Party of Louisiana – TPOL backed a slate of candidates, making it the only Tea Party group in the state to do so. Most of those candidates did well on Saturday, including East Baton Rouge School Board winner Connie Bernard and Landry, but the one the group was most closely associated with was state GOP chairman Roger Villere, who was running for Lieutenant Governor. Villere ran a poor fifth with just seven percent of the vote, behind minor candidates Jim Crowley and Kevin Davis. This is something of a disaster for TPOL, and since they made the mistake of insinuating with some of their communications on Villere’s behalf that the rest of the state’s tea party groups were also behind Villere it looks like a disaster for the entire movement in Louisiana. The other tea party groups who raised hell about TPOL and its founder Chris Comeaux last week regarding this issue look well-justified in their anger.

3. Roger Villere – Villere’s campaign was always a long shot of sorts, and it’s no surprise he didn’t finish with much support based on some rather dismal fundraising numbers. And he can probably mitigate the damage from Saturday’s election by rallying the troops behind Dardenne in his runoff bid against Fayard. But the strategy of attacking Dardenne as a RINO wasn’t a good one; Dardenne was always going to make the runoff in the Lt. Gov race, so any chance of beating him would have had to be in November rather than now. That meant getting to the runoff – which ultimately meant dislodging Fayard and Sammy Kershaw, not Dardenne. One wonders whether, if Villere had spent his time demonizing Fayard as a far-left, dangerous spawn of the trial lawyers he might would have done more to further his cause as the “true conservative” in the race.

4. Sammy Kershaw – ultimately, voters were suspicious of Kershaw’s ideas about building a Branson in Louisiana and using tax breaks for things like sound stages. And given some of the other things which have happened in Kershaw’s personal life – a divorce and a bankruptcy among them – Saturday’s near-miss 3rd place finish had to be a bitter pill. Kershaw doesn’t have much to be ashamed of, though, as he ran an honorable campaign and finished fairly well considering he wasn’t heavily capitalized like Dardenne and Fayard were. Kershaw also didn’t spend his time attacking anybody, which makes it too bad he didn’t make the runoff. We wish him the best.

5. Kristian Magar – Magar’s quasi-endorsement of Downer last Monday, offered along with 10 reasons for the decision which came off as petty and unpersuasive, ultimately had zero effect on the LA-3 race. Downer actually finished with a smaller percentage – 35 – than the 36 percent he polled in the primary when Magar was running against him. The endorsement had such a null effect on the race that Magar’s home parish of Iberia, which he shared with Landry, went 3,223-854 for the frontrunner – a much bigger percentage of the vote than he had in that parish in the primary. Magar’s vote in Iberia appears to all have gone for Landry despite his denunciation of him.

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