Aug 28, 2010 8:36 PM by Letitia Walker
Want real-time election results? Click HERE beginning at 8:00, August 28th.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Some of the campaigns were heated but voter interest appeared light for Saturday's congressional party primaries in Louisiana.
The only statewide races were for Senate nominations. Incumbent David Vitter was expected to easily win in the Republican primary, as was his likely Democratic opponent for the November general election, Rep. Charlie Melancon.
Vitter, who faced retired state Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor and the little-known Nick Accardo, planned to watch returns at home with family, friends and staff, his spokesman said.
Melancon, facing Neeson Chauvin and Cary Deaton, ptioned a French Quarter party with supporters.
The Senate primary marked Vitter's first election since his 2007 prostitution scandal and more recent questions about his judgment in keeping an aide on staff for more than two years after the man violently attacked a woman.
Primaries also were being held in four of the state's seven congressional districts. Key races were in the New Orleans-based 2nd District and in southeastern Louisiana's 3rd District, where Melancon was giving up his seat to challenge Vitter.
In the 2nd, four candidates - veteran political figure Eugene
Green, newcomer Gary Johnson and state Reps. Cedric Richmond and
Juan Lafonta - vied for the Democratic nomination and a chance to
unseat incumbent Anh "Joseph" Cao in November. All four
candidates are African-Americans running in a mostly black, mostly
Democratic district where Cao's victory two years ago surprised
many. Cao, unopposed for the Republ ian nomination, defeated
longtime Rep. William Jefferson. Jefferson was under indictment at
the time and later was convicted on federal corruption charges.
In the 3rd District Republican primary, a nasty contest
developed between New Iberia lawyer Jeff Landry and former state
House Speaker Hunt Downer of Houma. Kristian Magar, an oil field
manager from New Iberia, didn't raise enough money to launch a TV
campaign. The question was whether he would pull enough votes to
force an Oct. 2 runoff for the GOP spot in the general election
against the lone Democratic candidate, Ravi Sangisetty.
Despite the big story lines - Vitter's scandals, the nastiness
between Landry and Downer, questions about black political strength
in post-Katrina New Orleans - there appeared to be little interest
in the election. The Secretary of State's Office expected light
turnout, based on raw numbers from last week's early voting.
In other races,yrio Democrats were on the primary ballot in the
4th District that represents much of western Louisiana. David
Melville faced Steven Gavi for a chance to challenge U.S. Rep. John
Fleming, a Republican seeking his second term in office.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander's Republican opponent in the 5th
District primary, Todd Slavant, had little money to mount a
campaign against the four-term congressman from Quitman.
Several of the races centered around accusations of scandals and
Vitter had more than $5 million on hand, the support of state
GOP leaders and strong poll numbers. His steadfast opposition to
President Barack Obama played well with the GOP's conservative
base, which was expected to deliver for him.
Traylor, a last-minute entry in the primary, had offered himself
as a scandal-free alternative to Vitter. However, he was quickly
dogged by questions about his own love life. His wife, who died
last year, was once married to a state legislator, who recently
accused Traylor of contributing to their breakup.
In the 2nd District, Richmond raised the most money and was
endorsed by New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. But he, too, had
problems, including the fact that the state Supreme Court once
suspended his law license for two months, saying he had sworn
falsely to the certain city council district where he lived when he
signed up to run for a council seat in 2005.
Disputes between Landry and Downer in the 3rd District centered
on military service, legal entanglements and tax votes.
The accusations were among the only distinctions among the three
GOP candidates, who offered largely similar rheNG ic. They allied
themselves with tea party beliefs, blasted federal spending levels
and objected to nearly anything proposed or passed by President
Barack Obama in their bid to gain Republican votes.
Downer began the race with the most name recognition. He had
spent 28 years in the Louisiana House and retired as a major
general in the Louisiana National Guard. But he was lambasted by
some Republicans because he was a Democrat until 2001 and worked as
a legislative lobbyist for former Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco
after he switched to the GOP.
Landry and Magar have never held public office, though Landry
narrowly lost a state Senate seat in 2007 and before that worked as
an aide to a former state senator from New Iberia.
No primaries were needed in the 1st District representing
several suburbs of New Orleans or the Baton Rouge-based 6th
District. The two incumbent Republican congressmen, Steve Scalise
of Metairie and Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, each attracted
little-known Democratic challengers who have done little
fundraising for the general election so far. Scalise also picked up
a second challenger not affiliated with either party for the
In Louisiana's 7th District, representing southwest Louisiana
including Lake Charles and Lafayette, Republican U.S. Rep. Charles
Boustany didn't attract a challenger and advanced to a fourth term
without an election.