Clancy DuBos: December 2016 runoffs worth watching_lowres


While the rest of the country deals with an electoral hangover in the wake of a caustic presidential contest, Louisiana binges on with Dec. 10 runoffs for U.S. Senate and two congressional seats.

  The most visible race is not necessarily the most interesting.   

  The battle for David Vitter's Senate seat has attracted the most national attention and the most out-of-state spending by super PACs. That contest pits Republican state Treasurer John Neely Kennedy against Democrat Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell. All signs point to an easy Kennedy win, but Campbell soldiers on.

  Vitter declined to seek a third term after losing to John Bel Edwards in last year's race for governor. This year, Kennedy is running a Vitteresque campaign by refusing to debate Campbell. (Kennedy agreed to one debate, but only if there were no live audience. When he refused to back off that demand, the debate was canceled.)

  Vitter failed to turn the 2015 gubernatorial race into a referendum on President Barack Obama, but Kennedy is poised to ride President-elect Donald Trump's coattails to victory in this year's Senate runoff. One pro-Kennedy super PAC ad blasts Campbell for supporting Obamacare and opposing Trump. For his part, Campbell's ads paint him as Democrat Lite — he says he'll back Trump on infrastructure improvements but won't support cuts to Medicare. One Campbell ad hit Kennedy and closes with Campbell firing a shotgun before issuing the standard "I approved this message" disclaimer.

  If Kennedy wins as expected, it not only will highlight the difference between federal and state elections, but also will prove the wisdom of what the late Jim Carvin, one of Louisiana's seminal political consultants, often said: Every election is a unique event. Campbell has virtually replicated Edwards' campaign for governor, but pretty much everything about this election — including the potential vulnerability of his runoff opponent — is different.

  Meanwhile, the Acadiana-based contest to succeed U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, who finished third in the Senate race, has upended all early expectations. This race, in Louisiana's 3rd Congressional District, features Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who likewise finished third in the 2015 governor's race, and former lawman Clay Higgins, who has appeared in a series of popular but controversial social media videos as a tough-talking "Cajun John Wayne." Both are Republicans.

  Angelle, a one-time Democrat with close ties to former Gov. Bobby Jindal and Timmy Teepell (Jindal's political Svengali) was seen as the early favorite. Some speculated he might win outright in the primary. On Nov. 8, however, Angelle garnered only 29 percent of the vote (to Higgins' 26 percent) and is now in the fight of his life. Recent polls show a tight runoff.

  Higgins is dogged by allegations he used his notoriety (and law enforcement creds) for personal enrichment, had garnishments for unpaid taxes and claims of massive unpaid child support. Angelle, for all his political skills, is an insider trying to win in The Year of the Outsider.

  If you're bored with the Senate race, follow the Cajun shootout.