Louisiana: 3rd District faces a battle

June 17, 2009

The Bayou State’s 3rd District (Morgan City, etc.) is likely to be the site of a hotly contested congressional election next year, whether or not three-term US Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-LA) seeks re-election or decides to run against US Sen. David Vitter (R). If Melancon, the only Democrat on Louisiana’s US House delegation, stays put and seeks re-election, he is likely to be one of the GOP’s high profile targets…

Although Melancon had no opposition in 2008, he initially won by a slim 50% in 2004 and was re-elected by a healthy but not overwhelming 55% in 2006. But the district’s Republican leanings are strong. Bush carried it with 58% in 2004 and McCain with 61% in 2008. Pollster Pinsonnat says that the district “is not so much Democratic or Republican as it is very pro-business,” noting the large oil and ship-building industries, and ancillary businesses, in the district are non-union.

The National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC) has aired radio spots in the district attacking Melancon for voting for Obama’s stimulus package and continues to send media releases to the district criticizing Melancon for other votes that might give him trouble, such as opposing an amendment to block federal funds from being used to transfer prisoners from the Guantanamo prison in Cuba to the United States.

The NRCC has already met with state Rep. Nickie Monica, who is considered a likely challenger to Melancon. While he hasn’t announced, one source says, “Every time you see him he tells you he’s running.” Monica, a former employee of the Marathon Oil Refinery, served as president of St. John the Baptist Parish before his election to the legislature.

“Plenty of people are talking about running against Melancon since Obama came in,” says Pinsonnat. Other names are getting mentioned, although none have announced. If the seat is open, any of them are more likely to run. They include Bill Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish and son of a former state GOP chairman; St. John Parish president Bill Hubbard; and Lafourche Parish president Charlotte Randolph…

If Melancon does decide to challenge Vitter, who was damaged by publicity surrounding his alleged patronage of a prostitute, the congressional vacancy is likely to create “a healthy primary [in the district] on both sides,” says the insider.
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