BEAM: Boustany Critics Way Off Base

Louisiana’s six congressmen are running for re-election this year, but the focus here and statewide has been on the heated contest involving U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and Jeff Landry, R-New Iberia. Three other candidates are also running for the redrawn 3rd Congressional District seat, but only Ron Richard, the lone Democrat, has an outside chance of winning or making a runoff.

Most of the nation has been focused on the presidential campaign, but congressional races also deserve the close attention of voters. Congress will have as much to say about the future of this country as its chief executive, and it’s time to turn some attention to that arena.

Landry has conducted his campaign pretty much as expected. Three years ago he was elected to the former 3rd District seat after malicious attacks on the character and reputation of Hunt Downer, a dedicated public servant. Downer is a former speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, decorated military veteran who served in Operation Desert Storm, outstanding citizen of his community and a leader who has served his state and country well.

The tea party helped Landry carry out his vicious assault on Downer, and it has once again come to Landry’s rescue. When the Legislature redrew congressional election lines in 2011, it forced Boustany and Landry into the same district. The tea party and others tried to give Landry an edge when it supported efforts to put Calcasieu Parish in the congressional district based in Shreveport.

Landry supporters knew Calcasieu was strong territory for Boustany. However, through the efforts of Boustany and united support from political and civic leaders in Calcasieu and Lafayette parishes, both stayed in the 3rd District.

Now, Landry is working through Geaux Free TPL, formerly called the Tea Party of Lafayette, and Freedom Works, a Washington, D.C., conservative organization devoted to helping the tea party movement. Like their candidate, the organizations don’t hesitate to twist facts.

Both accused Boustany of not signing a no-tax pledge and said Landry, their candidate, was the only one supported by the National Right to Life Committee. The accusations were false, and Boustany called their hand, noting that he had signed the pledge and was backed by the antiabortion group.

“Jeff Landry and his Washington cronies Freedom Works have had plenty to say about me and my record for the entirety of this campaign,” Boustany said. “They have habitually lied about my positions regarding the sanctity of life, repealing Obamacare, support for Israel and tax policy, with little regard for the truth.”

Joyce Linde, coordinator for Geaux Free TPL, said the mistakes were accidental, were being corrected and “nothing was done intentionally.” However, considerable damage may have already been done.

Landry has never been shy about stretching the truth, and perhaps his most intentional effort to damage Boustany has been to consistently call his opponent a liberal. Louisiana has only two liberals in its congressional delegation, and both are Democrats — U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, both of New Orleans.

Boustany said, “Since his first speech announcing his campaign for re-election, Jeff Landry has continued to distort the facts and lie about my record.”

Pearson Cross, chairman of the political science department at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, told The Advocate newspaper that Boustany is competent, serious, a hard worker, studies the issues and is well-liked in Washington.

Landry brags about having the support of the majority of Republican executive committees in the district, but the endorsement he got from the Calcasieu Parish committee was a sham. It came out of the blue, and numerous Republicans in the parish protested the devious way it was planned and executed. Few candidates seek seats on parish executive committees, and they have a hard time filling vacancies. The tea party has always been more than willing to fill the void.

The United States is facing a multitude of problems, and it needs capable leadership in Congress to find solutions. Nothing of substance will get done until both parties are willing to make some compromises. Boustany has demonstrated he can make tough decisions and take unpopular stands when the country’s best interests are at stake.

The two men disagree on whether Congress should hold a lame-duck session after the Nov. 6 election. Boustany thinks it’s important in order to work on tax and defense cuts, a farm bill and veterans clinics proposed for Lake Charles and Lafayette. Boustany said language authorizing funding for those clinics is essential in order to get the often-delayed projects up and running.

Boustany is a member of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee that deals with tax and budget issues. He is closely allied with the strong House Republican leadership and is in line to become a power broker in Congress. Southwest Louisiana has been well-served by Boustany for eight years, and he is in a position to bring about bigger returns in the future.

The choice in this congressional race is clear. Voters can choose substance (Boustany) or show (Landry). The attacks on Boustany from Landry and other critics have had serious credibility problems. The 3rd District and the country need Boustany back in Congress.

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