Sunday, May 4, 2008

Running to Form

Posted By on Sun, May 4, 2008 at 3:52 PM

Steve Scalise’s easy victory in Saturday’s special election from Louisiana’s First Congressional District was a lot more predictable than the weather for the second week of Jazz Fest. The conservative district has consistently sent Republicans to Congress since Bob Livingston first captured the seat in 1977. Coincidentally, Livingston also first won the seat in a special election — as did David Vitter in 1999.

Looking ahead to future elections (the first of which will be later this year for him), Scalise can expect little or no opposition from fellow Republicans, and probably not much from Democrats — as long as he steers clear of trouble.

For decades, the First District, like many others nationwide and in Louisiana, favored its incumbents. The late F. Edward Hébert held the seat from 1940 until he voluntarily retired in 1976. Democrat Rick Tonry of St. Bernard Parish held it briefly (for about 4 months in early 1977) before resigning amid a vote-stealing scandal and then losing a Democratic primary to Ron Faucheux in the summer of 1977. Faucheux lost the general election to Livingston, who held the seat for 22 years before resigning in a Clinton-Era sex scandal.

Both Hebert and Livingston used their seniority to attain key committee chairmanships — Hebert on Armed Services and Livingston on Appropriations (and eventually as Speaker-elect). That, in turn, helped them send millions to southeast Louisiana.

One of the keys to Scalise’s early success in tying up major Republican endorsements was his pledge not to seek other elective office, but instead to focus on building seniority so that he, like Livingston and Hebert before him, could become part of the House leadership and deliver for the district and the state. Scalise’s two immediate predecessors, David Vitter and Bobby Jindal, proved wildly popular among GOP faithful but pretty much used the congressional seat as a stepping stone to higher office.

Scalise has to qualify for re-election in just two months. While he now ranks last in seniority, he will get a few months’ jump on any new colleagues elected in November. Given that this is a presidential election year with no incumbent running for the White House — and the tide of “change” sweeping across the country — Congress could see quite a few new faces next January.

The results of Saturday’s special election won’t be official until certified by the Secretary of State’s office, but here is the unofficial tally:

Steve Scalise (R), 33,867 (75.1%)

Gilda Reed (D), 10,142 (22.5%)

Skip Galan (NP), 786 (1.7%)

Anthony “Tony G” Gentile (I), 280 (0.6%)


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