Political Horizons: Claitor tries to end last-minute chaos _lowres

Senator Dan Claitor

State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, will keep his District 16 seat in the Louisiana Legislature after avoiding a runoff with Republican challenger Scott McKnight.

Claitor finished with 51 percent of the vote, and McKnight ended up with 35 percent. Other Party candidate Brent Campanella had 14 percent.

Claitor and McKnight were the two Republican heavyweights in the race: Claitor for his several years’ experience in the Legislature and McKnight for his ability to raise the most money in the race despite never having run for office before. In fact, McKnight raised $100,000 more than Claitor, though Claitor said earlier in the campaign cycle that he was not concerned about having less money.

Claitor mainly campaigned on the importance of having an experienced leader in the Legislature. He pointed to new laws for government transparency and the ability for disabled children to graduate from high school and proudly proclaimed his involvement in such efforts.

And Claitor said “there’s more to be done,” which is why he wanted to run for another term in office.

McKnight, an insurance man for Bancorp South Insurance Services Inc., said he was tired of watching the state’s budget problems repeat themselves each year. He said he wanted to make reining in spending his top priority in the Legislature.

While McKnight said he did not agree with everything Claitor had voted for and against during Claitor’s time in office, McKnight declined to point out specific examples.

But the two got into a legal flap around two weeks before the election. McKnight’s campaign sent out a mailer accusing Claitor’s law firm of not paying its withholding taxes and property taxes. Claitor sued, seeking a temporary restraining order to prevent McKnight’s campaign from circulating the material.

Claitor said the mailer was false. He left the law firm years before it was accused of having unpaid taxes between 2008 and 2011.

Attorneys for Claitor and McKnight reached a confidential settlement, and state District Judge Don Johnson dismissed the lawsuit on Oct. 13.

Brent Campanella positioned himself as the outsider in the race, hoping to reach those who were tired of “government as usual.” He was registered under “other party” and identified as an independent.

Campanella, a physician, said he wanted to break the “career politician mold.”