Political

Oct 7, 2010 3:31 PM

LA Congress 3rd District Campaign

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - As Republican contenders for a southeast Louisiana congressional seat fought bitterly for the party nomination, Democrat Ravi Sangisetty avoided the vitriol, quietly traveling the district to drum up campaign cash and votes.

Sangisetty's bucolic campaign season is over as he now goes head-to-head with his Republican rival.

Sangisetty is facing new, direct scrutiny for the 3rd District seat approaching the Nov. 2 election against Jeff Landry, a New Iberia lawyer who emerged as the GOP nominee after two hard-fought elections.

Where once Sangisetty could hone his message on coastal restoration and veterans issues, he'll now have to fend off barbs from the Republican Party and from Landry himself as he makes his first run for elected office.

"Landry will certainly go on the attack against Sangisetty, but will do so indirectly by attacking President Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and then link the Democrat Sangisetty to those two," said Edward Chervenak, a University of New Orleans political scientist.

Sangisetty, a Houma lawyer and the son of Indian immigrants, isn't running on any ties to the national Democratic Party. He's running as a "pro-life, pro-gun conservative Democrat." That's how he ends each news release from his campaign, and that's how he
repeatedly describes himself in appearances.

He talks of a need to rein in federal spending and to avoid more corporate bailouts. "I believe in fiscal responsibility. I believe that Washington is broken and it's time for some new blood," Sangisetty said.

Further distancing himself from the national party, Sangisetty said if elected and the Democrats maintain the majority in the U.S. House, he won't vote for Pelosi to retain her job as speaker. "The speaker doesn't share our values," he said.

Sangisetty is trying to direct the conversation away from national partisan politics in a district that, while nearly 55 percent of voters are registered Democrats, overwhelmingly backed John McCain in the 2008 presidential election.

Both Landry and Sangisetty campaign on a need to restore Louisiana's coast, to end the Obama administration moratorium on new deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and to cut the federal
deficit. Both cast themselves as outsiders to the Washington political scene.

But Landry also says Sangisetty represents the party in power, even if he calls himself a conservative Democrat.

"Those are the same conservative Democrats who have given us the health care law that is going to be crippling us," Landry said. "I believe it's a song that they tend to sing in order to lure voters to vote for them and they go to Washington and support
liberal policies."

The national Democratic Party has given Sangisetty little public help so far in the race. But the national GOP has been weighing in, calling him inexperienced and describing his voting record - they
say he didn't vote before 2009 - as atrocious.

Louisiana's 3rd District is mostly rural, covering all or part of 13 parishes stretching from Acadiana across much of southeast Louisiana. The district's seat was left vacant when Democrat Charlie Melancon decided to run for the U.S. Senate.

Chervenak said it will be tough for Sangisetty to win amid Louisiana's growing shift, along with other Southern states, away from the Democratic Party and into the Republican column. But he said disenchantment with Washington among Louisiana voters makes Sangisetty's bid all that more difficult as Louisiana heads into the red state column.

"There is the strong antipathy in this state toward the current Democratic administration in Washington, D.C.," Chervenak said. "That adds up to trouble for any Democratic candidate in Louisiana today."

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