Sep 2, 2010 10:18 PM by Alison Haynes
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - The state Republican Party on Thursday
backed congressional candidate Jeff Landry for the GOP nomination
in a southeastern Louisiana district, in a move designed to
pressure Republican Hunt Downer out of the race.
Downer, a former Louisiana House speaker, said he wasn't ending
State Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere issued a statement
urging voters in the 3rd District to support Landry, a New Iberia
lawyer, in the Oct. 2 primary runoff. The statement doesn't
directly ask Downer to drop out, but says, "It is now time to
unite behind Jeff Landry."
"This is a very important seat and could conceivably provide
the deciding vote to unseat Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the House,"
Villere said a majority of the state party's eight-member
executive committee voted to endorse y ddry. He wouldn't say
whether he agreed with them.
Asked in a phone interview whether Downer should exit the race,
Villere said, "I think that's a decision Hunt would have to make
on his own. We feel like that the party would best be served
coalescing around one candidate. We need to be concentrating on
electing a Republican."
Downer released a statement indicating he had no intention of
being pushed out.
"I intend to let the voters endorse their candidate on Oct.
2," he said. "Their endorsement is the one I care about."
Downer has run into criticism for his decades-long political
career as a Democrat. He switched parties in 2001. After that, he
worked as a legislative lobbyist for Democratic former Gov.
Kathleen Blanco. He has never been elected to office as a
The GOP nominee will face Democrat Ravi Sangisetty, a Houma
lawyer, in the November general election.
Landry, who has never hefensn elected office, barely missed an
outright victory in last weekend's primary, falling fewer than 200
votes short of 50 percent. Downer had 36 percent and won only his
home parish of Terrebonne.
The state Republican Party often has taken a position against
endorsing candidates when there is more than one GOP contender in a
Villere said the decision to endorse came after Landry won the
backing of the Tea Party of Louisiana - one of several tea party
groups in the district - and of a majority of Republican Party
leaders in the district.
"We have a majority of state central committee members that
live in the district have signed affidavits supporting Jeff and a
majority of the party's parish executive committees in the district
had endorsed him," Villere said.
Downer questioned the way Landry picked up those endorsements,
suggesting that some of the parish executive committees didn't hold
fair and open endy sement processes and saying that Landry packed
his campaign with members of the GOP hierarchy.
"Jeff Landry hired anyone he could to get this endorsement,"
said Buddy Boe, Downer's campaign manager.