Louisianans Vote in Congressional Races
Associated Press Writer
Voters in southeastern Louisiana chose party candidates Saturday for congressional races in two conservative-leaning districts, including a contest in which Democrats are mounting a strong challenge for a seat held by Republicans for 32 years.
Saturday's voting was in party runoff races in special elections. The winners and independent candidates face off in general elections May 3.
The Republican and Democratic front-runners won their respective races for the 6th Congressional District, setting the stage for a combative general election for a district that covers Baton Rouge and the surrounding Old South plantation country.
On the Republican side, Woody Jenkins, a 61-year-old community newspaper editor aligned with the Christian right, captured 62 percent of the vote to defeat lobbyist Laurinda Calongne.
State Rep. Don Cazayoux, a well-financed conservative Democrat from rural New Roads, beat his Democratic opponent, state Rep. Michael Jackson of Baton Rouge. Cazayoux attracted 57 percent of the vote.
The 6th District seat opened up after former Rep. Richard Baker took a job in the hedge fund industry.
In the 1st Congressional District, a bitter fight for the Republican candidacy was coming to a close.
State Sen. Steve Scalise, who has won the backing of prominent Republicans, beat state Rep. Tim Burns with 58 percent of the vote. The two candidates, ideologically similar, stayed in near-constant attack mode since the March 8 primary.
Scalise will face Democrat Gilda Reed, a college professor who won her party primary outright, and two independent candidates in the general election. But Scalise is expected to win the staunchly conservative district.
The 1st District covers a slice of New Orleans, suburbs including Metairie and Kenner, and the rural pine country north of Lake Pontchartrain. The seat came open after Bobby Jindal was inaugurated as Louisiana's governor in January.
If elected, Scalise said he would be a rock-solid conservative.
"Congress is going in the wrong direction," Scalise said. "I feel that we have to stand up for the core principles our government was founded on - less government, lower taxes and more individual freedom."
Despite the odds, Reed has taken her challenge seriously, logging 30,000 miles throughout the district.
"I am representative of all. I can represent every single parish within my district. I know them like the back of my hand," she said.
The 6th District was expected to draw the most attention, and Republicans were skittish about their chances of holding onto the seat.
A Jenkins-Cazayoux face-off will be a tough fight.
Cazayoux has raised more money than Jenkins and does not carry the political baggage, but Jenkins is well known in Louisiana and served 28 years in the state House. Jenkins narrowly lost a 1996 Senate race against Democrat Mary Landrieu.
In 2002, the Federal Elections Commission fined Jenkins for illegally concealing his purchase of a phone bank tied to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke. In the 1980s, Jenkins was aligned with Oliver North, a figure in the Iran-Contra scandal, through a charity Jenkins ran called the Friends of the Americas, which sent medical supplies to Central America.
Cazayoux said he would campaign on "the issues that matter to people ... the kitchen table issues: the price of health care, the price of gas and even the price of food now."
Jenkins could not be reached for comment Saturday night.
Turnout in both districts was higher than expected - 14 percent in the 6th District and 20 percent in the 1st. Voter interest is closely watched because these races are the first elections in about 30 years where Louisiana voters are casting ballots for state races in a closed party system.
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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