Of all of the major candidates vying to capture the 3rd Congressional District seat, a political novice from Houma appears to be the clear money leader as the race begins to take shape. Aside from his rookie status, Ravi Sangisetty is also a Democrat running for office in a district that national odds makers have pegged as a possible takeover for Republicans. Incumbent Congressman Charlie Melancon, D-Napoleonville, is vacating the seat to oppose U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie, in the fall.
When first elected in 2004, the last time the seat was open, Melancon raised $1.7 million to clear a crowded field and claim victory in the runoff against his predecessor's son, Billy Tauzin III, a Republican who likewise raised $1.7 million for the contest. That kind of dough won't be found in this year's race, but there's still time for candidates to shake the money trees. The declared candidates who raised money in 2009 will soon have to show their hands, as year-end reports were due to the Federal Elections Commission over the weekend. Sangisetty, an attorney and native of Terrebonne Parish, appears to have the edge with $250,000 raised by the Dec. 31 reporting cutoff date. About $100,000 of that sum represents a personal loan, and a press release from Sangisetty stated that another $117,800 was collected during the final quarter of 2009. As for the bottom line, his campaign's forthcoming report will show $225,000 cash on hand. That lead, however, may not last.
State Rep. Nickie Monica, R-LaPlace, who has been raising money since last summer, has not yet released his preliminary numbers. Fellow Republican Jeff Landry of New Iberia is a much more recent entry and reports raising $96,000 in just three weeks during December. Landry has also put $20,000 of personal money into the campaign kitty and expects to have roughly $115,000 cash on hand in his report. An official announcement of his candidacy is expected in the coming weeks, but he's already working high-ranking politicos. Sources close to his campaign say he met with Republican leaders and officials from the National Republican Congressional Committee this month during the Washington Mardi Gras.
Kristian Magar, another Republican from New Iberia, said he will file a campaign finance report soon, but it's unlikely to track the numbers his opponents are touting. Technically, it's still early; candidates do not have to qualify until early July for the party primaries to be held Aug. 28. Natural Resources Secretary Scott Angelle of Breaux Bridge says he may switch from Democrat to Republican to run in the 3rd District. Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer of the Louisiana National Guard, a Houma native and former Republican speaker of the state House, is also considering the race, as are state Rep. Gary Smith, D-Norco, and others. — Alford