The election is 11 months away, but over the past few days candidates began lining up to replace U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
Congressman John Fleming announced earlier this week in a three-minute video. U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness filed their federal paperwork.
All three are Republicans as is State Treasurer John N. Kennedy, who said Wednesday he’d make a statement after the Christmas holidays.
And Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Bossier Parish Democrat, scored high in a poll commissioned by Kennedy and released Wednesday, which prompted speculation that he might also run for the Senate seat.
Vitter, a Republican, announced his plans not to seek re-election after losing the governor’s race to Democrat John Bel Edwards in a runoff on Nov. 21. His third term will end in January 2017, but the election for his seat will be Nov. 8, 2016 with a runoff, if necessary, on Dec. 3, 2016.
“I’m interested, real interested,” Campbell said in an interview Wednesday evening. But he hasn’t started raising money or organizing, and a final decision is still in the offing.
“It is clear to me that Louisiana needs a constitutional conservative and fighter in the United States Senate,” Maness said in a late afternoon statement. “My broad national security and leadership experience is a skill set sorely needed by our state to protect our citizens, and my commitment to principle is what’s needed to fight the Washington cartel.”
In his first bid for public office, Maness ran third with 14 percent of the vote in the 2014 U.S. Senate race that ultimately elected Bill Cassidy. Since then, Maness has operated GatorPAC, an organization that pushes tea party causes.
Boustany is a cardiovascular surgeon who is chairman of the Ways and Means Committee’s tax policy subcommittee. Representing southwest Louisiana in Congress since 2005, Boustany announced his intentions in a statement last week.
“Louisiana deserves a United States senator who can lead in times of challenge, offer conservative, workable solutions to complex problems, and bring unity in times of division,” Boustany said in a prepared statement. He plans to officially announce in his hometown of Lafayette, soon.
Fleming, a family physician from Minden, has represented northwest Louisiana in Congress since 2009.
“The true test of a reformer is not their rhetoric when they’re running for office but what happens after they get elected and enter the lion’s den,” Fleming said in the video emailed to supporters earlier this week. “We have too many in Washington who are all too willing to go along with the status quo and not make any waves.”
Citizens United Political Victory Fund, the affiliated political action committee of Citizens United, has already come out in support of Fleming.
“The contrast in this race could not be more clear. If you want a strong conservative leader who will stand up to Washington’s failed status quo and fight to make Washington work for the people of Louisiana, I urge all voters to support John Fleming in Louisiana’s primary election for the U.S. Senate in 2016,” said Citizens United President David N. Bossie, in endorsing Fleming.
A SurveyUSA poll paid for by a political action committee that’s backing Kennedy found that early impressions from voters benefit Kennedy, who was seen favorably by 55 percent of voters surveyed to 12 percent who view him unfavorably.
The nonpartisan SurveyUSA firm interviewed 600 likely voters across the state Friday through Monday via land line and cellphones.
The poll found Kennedy leading a hypothetical pack of Republicans with 21 percent, followed by Maness (9 percent), Fleming (6 percent), Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (12 percent) and Congressman Charles Boustany (10 percent). Boustany has said he’s exploring a run, while Angelle hasn’t revealed his plans following a loss in this year’s governor’s race.
Campbell was the only Democrat tested in the poll, and came in at 23 percent.
Boustany has raised nearly $2 million for his 2016 House re-election campaign, and Fleming has taken in $1.5 million (including $525,000 in a personal loan to his campaign). Accounting for money left over from his 2014 campaign, plus spending since then, Boustany has $1.5 million in cash on hand; for Fleming, the equivalent amount is $2.3 million. In both cases, those amounts could be rolled into a Senate campaign.
Kennedy has nearly $3 million in a state campaign account left over from his easy re-election in the October primary. That money cannot be transferred directly to a federal campaign, but it could be funneled to an existing Kennedy-aligned independent political action committee, or super PAC, that could spend it to elect him to the Senate.
Follow Mark Ballard on Twitter @MarkBallardCNB.