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Louisiana Republican Reps. Charles Boustany Jr. and Jeff Landry face each other in a Dec. 8 runoff, and Boustany should easily win if his huge advantage in resources translates into a favorable turnout.
Boustany finished first in the Nov. 6 all-party “jungle primary” election, beating the second-place Landry 45 percent to 30 percent. A recent internal poll showed the four-term Boustany leading Landry, a freshman firebrand aligned with the tea party, by almost thirty points. But if a vastly different electorate shows up at the polls next Saturday in the southern Louisiana 3rd District, there could also be a surprise.
“If you’re betting, you got to bet on Boustany,” said unaligned Louisiana pollster Bernie Pinsonat, who has worked for Democrats and Republicans. But, he said, he wouldn’t be totally shocked “if Landry pulls out a victory.”
Under Louisiana’s unique election rules the top two finishers from the Election Day contest proceed to a general election runoff if the winner fails to garner more than 50 percent of the vote. Boustany, who is close with Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, and Landry were pushed into the 3rd District during the recently completed redistricting process. But the new seat includes about three quarters of Boustany’s old turf, giving him a built-in edge over his Republican opponent. The seat was drawn to elect a Republican, and in fact, the Democratic candidate pulled only 22 percent of the vote on Nov. 6.
The race was always likely to be an uphill climb for Landry, who faces a daunting mix of lots of new territory and the establishment-backed candidate. The insider-vs.-outsider divide was laid out in stark relief in both members’ most recent Federal Election Commission fundraising reports.
In the month between Oct. 18 and Nov. 18, Boustany raised a whopping $887,000 to Landry’s $300,000. And Boustany had a very comfortable $732,000 left in the bank on Nov. 18 compared with Landry’s weak $189,000.
In that period alone, Boustany received contributions totaling more than half a million dollars from political action committees and GOP colleagues’ campaign accounts. He got $2,500 from Indiana Sen. Richard G. Lugar’s PAC, $7,000 combined from the PAC and campaign committee of California Rep. Devin Nunes, and four-figure donations from Reps. Pat Tiberi of Ohio, Sam Johnson of Texas, and Tom Reed of N.Y., among others.
But Landry has friends too, especially among the freshman class.
GOP Reps. Mick Mulvaney and Jeff Duncan, both of South Carolina, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Tom Graves of Georgia, all went to the district to campaign for Landry after their own elections. Jordan is chairman of the Republican Study Committee, a caucus of conservative House Republicans.
“We went down and we helped him with a little fundraising,” Duncan explained to CQ Roll Call. “We did a little radio, we did some TV, and went to a couple of events with him.”
Between Oct. 18 and Nov. 18, Landry also received support from freshmen Reps. Steve Southerland II of Florida and Raúl R. Labrador of Idaho. The Louisianan also received PAC contributions from a couple of veteran Republican House Members, including Alaska Rep. Don Young and Pennsylvania Rep. Bill Shuster, the incoming chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
There has also been significant outside spending in the race, with the majority benefitting Landry. About $600,000 in independent expenditure spending has benefitted Boustany compared to about $800,000 benefitting Landry, according to FEC data as of Nov. 30.
But Louisiana insiders don’t believe the discrepancy has been enough to make this a truly competitive race.
Still, Landry aides are counting on an electorate significantly different than what the district saw on Election Day.
“It’s going to be a low-turnout election and we’re continuing to run on the record,” said one Landry aide. “We’ll see the decision the voters make.”
Landry has positioned himself as the true conservative in the race, pointing to votes like the 2011 debt ceiling-raising Budget Control Act: Boustany voted with leadership in favor while Landry voted no.
The Boustany campaign was bullish on their prospects.
“We’re feeling confident going into this week,” said Boustany campaign spokesman Neal Patel.
In this battle in the Bayou on a Saturday in December, however, anything is possible.