WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany received about 20 percent more votes than fellow incumbent U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry Saturday, winning the seat representing southwestern Louisiana in Congress.
Boustany, R-Lafayette, topped Landry, R-New Iberia, with about 61 percent to 39 percent in an often nasty race of two Republicans for the last elected seat in Washington, D.C., to be decided this year in what may go down as the most expensive campaign in state history for a House race.
Boustany received 58,820 votes and Landry got 37,764 with all 616 precincts reporting, according to the Secretary of State.
Boustany, 56, is a four-term congressman and former surgeon who is closer with the Republican House leadership, while Landry, 41, is a businessman and freshman lawmaker aligned with the tea party movement.
Only about 19 percent of the district’s 500,098 registered voters cast ballots, according to unofficial numbers from the Louisiana Secretary of State’s Office, compared with the much larger 67.4 percent turnout in November that featured a presidential election.
Boustany and Landry were forced into the same race because of congressional redistricting, but Boustany had the edge of maintaining a much larger portion of his original district than did his opponent. Louisiana is losing a seat in Congress because of a lack of population growth.
The new 3rd Congressional District stretches along the coast from St. Mary to Calcasieu parishes, including the cities of Lafayette, Lake Charles and Morgan City.
Boustany celebrated from The Schilling Shack in Lafayette and said the district’s voices were heard “loud and clear.”
“With the help of thousands of volunteers and supporters, we ran a tough campaign which culminated in tonight’s resounding victory,” Boustany said in his prepared victory remarks.
“I am extremely excited and energized to return to Capitol Hill to address the issues facing South Louisiana and our country,” he added. “I look forward to representing the new areas in our district while continuing to serve as the credible, trustworthy conservative you all have come to know.”
Landry won his home base of Iberia, St. Martin and St. Mary parishes, but Boustany won in the district’s other seven parishes.
In a prepared response, Landry congratulated Boustany, thanked his constituents and said it was a “true honor” to serve two years in Congress.
“Although tonight’s results are not what we wanted, I can assure you that our fight for lower taxes, less debt, and more jobs — especially more oil-and-gas jobs — continues tomorrow,” Landry stated.
Pearson Cross, who heads the University of Louisiana at Lafayette political science department, said Boustany won by a “stronger” margin than he anticipated.
“Jeff Landry is a formidable candidate … and Boustany disposed of him fairly handily,” Cross said, arguing that people will think twice of challenging Boustany in the future.
“At the end of the day, this was about familiarity and incumbency,” Cross said, as well as geographical advantages.
Landry had attempted to paint Boustany repeatedly as a closet liberal who is too willing to compromise. Landry argued he is the only one who truly supports conservatism, limited government and “fiscal sanity,” while he contended Boustany is a status quo politician who will do or stay anything to keep his job.
Boustany, meanwhile, had maintained that Landry is all talk and little substance — a “good ole’ boy” who thrives in “bumper-sticker politics.” Boustany has repeated he is the only one who has a proven record of conservatism and a strong history of looking out for his constituents, no matter what their political ideologies.
Boustany and Landry have combined to raise more than $6 million — about 4 million by Boustany and more than $2 million by Landry — and that is not counting the outside spending by third-party super PAC groups, according to the Federal Election Commission. For instance, FreedomWorks for America, a self-described conservative group that helps tea party organizations, spent heavily on behalf of Landry, while the American Hospital Association PAC financed advertisements for Boustany.
Those funds were frequently used for attack advertisements on television, radio and mailings that both sides often accused of being unfair and, at times, malicious lies.
Out of a five-candidate pool, Boustany won nearly 45 percent of the vote compared with about 30 percent for Landry in the Nov. 6 open primary election.
Boustany had predicted he would win in November but, as the only Democrat in the race, Ron Richard won more than 20 percent of vote with an especially strong showing in his hometown base of Lake Charles and helped keep Boustany from winning a majority.
Afterward, Boustany said the runoff would show that he would win convincingly.
Landry declared the race symbolic of the fight for the soul of the Republican Party.