Republican U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany is running for a sixth congressional term in a low-key election that’s a marked departure from two years ago.
In 2012, Boustany was fighting for his political future — thrown into a district with fellow U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry because of redistricting. The Lafayette cardiovascular surgeon survived with a strong runoff showing against Landry.
This year, Boustany, 58, is being challenged by two candidates running low-budget, self-financed campaigns. Going into the election, Boustany had nearly $570,000 in the bank.
It is Republican Bryan Barrilleaux’s second attempt to oust Boustany. The internal medicine physician from Lake Charles ran in 2012, getting 2.5 percent of the vote. He signed up to run using the petition route instead of paying a qualifying fee.
Also on the ballot is Russell Richard, of Lafayette, a drilling fluids engineer who is not affiliated with a political party.
Both say they are frustrated with Washington politics, which serves special interests, not 3rd District people.
As Boustany campaigns, he points to success in a bipartisan effort to get new veterans health clinics in Lafayette and Lake Charles as well as funds for the dredging of ports and waterways. In a new term, Boustany said, on his list of priorities is achieving federal funding for extension of I-49 South and replacement of a “structurally deficient” I-10 bridge at Lake Charles. He said he is positioned well as a member of the House Ways and Means Committee, which considers the federal highway funding bill.
“The district has big infrastructure needs,” Boustany said.
Boustany said he’s also part of congressional efforts to review and simplify the tax code, which would include lower rates. “We have a lot more work to do,” he said.
Boustany opposes the federal Affordable Care Act and has worked on an alternative. “We don’t need all the mandates in there on individuals and employers,” Boustany said. “The ACA is overcomplicated, has not kept costs down or made access better,” he said. “I believe we need to expand insurance choices. More competition and transparency will allow for lower premiums.”
Boustany said a bipartisan approach is needed to salvage Social Security. “All ideas out there are under discussion. We have to fully vet what they really mean. Any change to the Social Security age would come much later,” he said. Congress’ raiding the trust fund for budget purposes must stop, he said.
On the immigration front, Boustany said border security is needed first. “It’s not as simple as putting a fence up,” said Boustany, who opposes amnesty for illegal immigrants.
Barrilleaux, 57, is running on a social conservative, anti-abortion, pro-religion platform, “not corrupted by any of the influences that go with campaign money. I have turned down contributions.”
“I’m critical of the system, the Congress in general. Congress has been ineffective, somewhat sluggish,” Barrilleaux said. “The reason I believe it’s uncreative and sluggish is they have too much interest in finding more money for the next campaign. That corrupts the system and spoils the system.”
He said he’s also an economic conservative who favors the individual as the best operator of the economy in a free market. “The role of government should be very limited,” he said.
Barrilleaux opposes the Affordable Care Act and criticized Congress for allowing President Barack Obama to “arbitrarily implement” the federal health care revamp and immigration policy as well as make interim appointments.
“It’s important for our country to have immigration, but it needs to be done in a way that’s legal and regulated. We need to continue to make opportunities for new citizens to arrive and get naturalized,” he said. “I would favor an immediate return to their (illegal immigrants’) countries” then have them go through the regular application process.
Barrilleaux proposes a Social Security solvency plan under which all beneficiaries at or above retirement age who voluntarily forgo benefits for a year would be exempt from all federal income tax and Social Security tax on earned income in that same year. He said it would create an incentive for beneficiaries to delay Social Security benefits and thus reduce obligations.
The campaign theme for Richard, 66, is elect a “Cajun for Congress.”
“God said, ‘Get off your butt or stop complaining,’ ” said Richard, who served in the Air Force and is a Vietnam veteran.
Richard said he is running because of “the absolute inaction in Congress” by Republicans and Democrats. “I’ve never seen this partisan polarization to the extent I do now,” he said. He said he wants to “get something done for the local people, not for the big banks, big corporations.”
He said he supports an increase in the federal minimum wage “so those who want to work won’t have to live below the poverty line.” He favors the Affordable Care Act: “It’s done so much good for so many people. I think medical care is a basic right, not a luxury,” Richard said.
Richard said the Social Security system is not broken. “They have messed it up by putting Social Security money into the general fund,” he said.
The U.S. immigration system is broken, he said. “Some of these people, most of these people have been working here 10 years or more, paying taxes and paying into Social Security, but can’t get benefits.” He said those who have been here 10 years or more should not be deported. “We need to focus on illegals who are criminals” for deportation, he said.
“Reasonable tax reform where everyone pays their fair share is long overdue,” Richard said.