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Wednesday | November 20, 2002

LA GOP civil war improves Dem chances

The race may have little practical importance, and it is certainly overshadowed by the state's Senate race, but a win in LA's 5th Congressional District certainly seems within reach -- thanks to a vicious intra-party fight within the GOP.

The December runoff pits Republican Lee Fletcher against Democrat Rodney Alexander. Clyde Holloway, who came in third in the Nov. 5 open primary, staged a news conference to tear his fellow GOPer apart.

"Over the course of this last year, I have had an opportunity to witness the mean-spirited nature and dishonesty of Lee Fletcher," said Holloway.

While Holloway's negative remarks Friday were only pointed at Fletcher, he stopped short of abandoning his conservative values to endorse Alexander.

"I do not believe Lee Fletcher is good for our state or our nation. He scares me," Holloway said. "I cannot endorse Lee Fletcher and so I will remain neutral."

Now to be realistic, the three GOP candidates in the Nov. 5 election received a collective 66 percent of the vote. Alexander took 29 percent. It is the second most Republican district in the state, even with the inclusion of more Aftican American voters during redistricting.

But Democrats still think they can make a race out of it:

Louisiana Democrats don't concede that they'll lose in the 5th District. They know that voters can abandon national-party allegiance if a candidate plays the right local chords. They say the demographics of redistricting made the 5th District somewhat less Republican. They promise to work aggressively to turn out the district's recently acquired Democrats.

Another independent analyst says Democrats have a shot with Alexander -- but it's long. "I think in a special election Republicans are favored in that district, the way it's composed, but not so much that Alexander has no chance," said Ron Fauxcheux, editor and publisher of Campaigns&Elections magazine."

Much of the same is happening in the Senate race. Suzanne Haik Terell, the GOP candidate in December's runoff and the number two vote getter on Nov. 5, had been spurned by her two primary opponents. John Cooksey, who finished third, endorsed Terell, then publicly attacked her for being too conservative. Tony Perkins, who finished fourth, originally refused to endorse Terell.

And, perhaps most important of all, GOP guv Foster held back his endorsement, saying her campaign was too negative.

But the negative messages from people who are supposed to be on her side could cause some voters to take notice, even if the dissenters later change their minds. The damage already has been done because some might look at any later endorsements as the product of political pressure, said University of Virginia political analyst Larry Sabato.

"This is what you expect of a Louisiana election: chaos," Sabato said. The intraparty criticism illustrates problems Terrell has among some conservative voters, he said.

Well, those Republicans ultimately fell behind Terrell, but as Sabato noted, the damage may already be done.

Landreiu has had her problems with African American constituents, so ultimately, this may come down to whose supporters hate their candidate less.

Posted November 20, 2002 06:45 PM | Comments (91)


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