With the redistricting process done (other than the prospect of a Justice Department challenge, which will surely come) and Louisiana’s congressional districts remapped into six pieces instead of the current seven, the 2012 campaign can now enter its early stages.
And the first quarter fundraising numbers, which are now public record thanks to the completion of the Federal Election Commission reports last week, show that some of Louisiana’s incumbents are in a commanding position for re-election.
Some, however, are not.
In the first category, it appears that the safest of Louisiana’s incumbents is 6th District Rep. Bill Cassidy, whose Baton Rouge-area district has been redrawn to make a Democrat challenge an incredibly difficult proposition. Cassidy’s 2012 re-election was made far more likely by virtue of his campaigning in the 2010 cycle; Cassidy entered 2011 with better than $800,000 in cash on hand. Now his war chest is more than a million dollars, as Cassidy raised just under $240,000, spent $49,000 and has $1.08 million sitting in the bank. No serious Democrat challenger emerged for Cassidy last year when his district was more than 30 percent black; now that it’s significantly whiter and more conservative it’s even less likely he’ll be seriously challenged next year.
But while Cassidy has built a high wall against challengers, Rep. John Fleming was the most active of the state’s congressional fundraisers in the first quarter. The Minden-based 4th District representative led the field with $350,000 in funds raised. But Fleming also spent $227,000, so he didn’t actually net as much as Cassidy did. On a cash-on-hand basis, Fleming is at a healthy-but-not-insurmountable $303,000. That’s a number which stands him in good stead against a typical (meaning non-self funding) Democrat candidate, but it won’t particularly scare one away. Fleming’s fundraising efforts must continue, particularly since the campaign reports some $550,000 in debt (largely left over from self-funding he opted to do in his initial 2008 campaign).
Steve Scalise, the Metairie-based representative of the 1st District, took in $189,000 against $72,000 in expenses. That puts Scalise with $480,000 in cash on hand. Scalise’s district is changing to add the southern areas of Lafourche Parish and a majority of Terrebonne as well as Plaquemines and St. Bernard Parish, along with his base areas of East Jefferson and St. Tammany. One assumes he’ll get a Democrat challenger, but it’s unlikely it will be a serious one given the strong conservative bent of the district. He won’t likely need much more cash than he has to hang on to that seat.
Beyond Cassidy, Fleming and Scalise, things are less settled among the state’s congressional delegation.
New Orleans-based 2nd District representative Cedric Richmond, the lone Democrat and African-American in the delegation, should be safe with a remapped district comprised of more than 60 percent black voters. That said, Richmond’s financial numbers won’t frighten away a challenger. He took in $166,000 in the 1st quarter, but spent $81,000 to do it. Richmond’s cash on hand is just $88,000, and his campaign is $208,000 in debt. A well-financed Democrat, like for example Baton Rouge mayor-president Kip Holden or state senator Karen Carter Peterson, could give Richmond a run for his money under the right circumstances. There is no evidence out there at present to the effect Richmond will get such a challenge next year, though.
At present, there are only rumors of a challenge on the horizon to 5th District representative Rodney Alexander, but the Republican from Quitman is in fact the subject of such rumors (to the effect that he’ll get a challenger who is willing to self-finance and who will run at him from the right). If those rumors are true, Alexander has reason to be concerned. He’s currently the poorest Republican of the state’s congressional delegation. In the first quarter Alexander, the dean of the state’s delegation, raised just $120,000 – and to get it he spent $86,000. He’s got only $36,000 on hand, with $15,000 in debt. That’s a war chest which looks like something a candidate for state representative, much less the U.S. Congress, could expect. Alexander’s vulnerability might be a story to follow in next year’s cycle; his vote in favor of project labor agreements in February made him some powerful enemies among members of the construction industry and economic conservatives in general, and the rumors of a Republican challenger have been percolating ever since.
Of course, on the surface Rep. Charles Boustany ought to be considered as safe as Cassidy, Fleming and Scalise given his current numbers. Boustany had a strong fundraising quarter, reeling in $235,000 against $102,000 in expenditures. That leaves the Lafayette-based 7th District representative with a very strong $694,000 war chest, second only to Cassidy. Those numbers would in all likelihood scare off any serious Democrat challenger.
But Boustany can’t consider himself safe, if for no other reason than that he’s going to have to square off against an incumbent next year. Boustany’s 7th District is going to become the 3rd District next year, and current 3rd District representative Jeff Landry proved himself a formidable fundraiser in winning office last year.
Landry does have considerable ground to make up against Boustany where finances are concerned. He raised a respectable $198,000 against only $27,000 in expenses, and that leaves him with $172,000 on hand with $39,000 in debt to retire. For a newly-elected Congressman coming off a contested primary and general election last year, those aren’t bad numbers. But the Boustany-Landry cage match next year will likely require at least a million dollars to win, so both sides will be racing from one side of the district to the other – and beyond – over the next 18 months in order to raise it.
What’s striking, though, is the absolute lack of money being raised on the Democrat side. Certainly with a statewide cycle standing in the way between now and the 2012 congressional races it’s no surprise no challengers have emerged to the five (six) Republican incumbents, but when all but Alexander outraised Richmond it’s an indication the fundraising prowess of Louisiana Democrats is badly on the wane.