- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 3, 2004

LAFAYETTE, La. — The winners of two seats in the House of Representatives will not be decided until Dec. 4 runoff votes in Louisiana’s unusual election system.

Because of Louisiana’s open-primary system, all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, appear on the same ballot. If none receives a majority, the top two compete in a runoff.

In the 3rd Congressional District, being vacated by Republican stalwart Billy Tauzin, three Democrats and three Republicans were on Tuesday’s ballot. Mr. Tauzin’s son, Billy Tauzin III, came in first with 32 percent; former Democratic state legislator Charlie Melancon finished second with 24 percent, just nudging out Republican state Sen. Craig Romero, who garnered 23 percent.

In the neighboring 7th District, there were three Democrats and two Republicans vying for the seat being vacated by Democratic Rep. Chris John, who gave it up in an unsuccessful Senate bid. Republican neophyte Charles Boustany Jr., a retired heart surgeon, finished first with 39 percent. Two Democratic state senators, Willie Landry Mount and Don Cravins, each had about 25 percent, but Mrs. Mount made the runoff by 1,800 votes. Another Republican, English professor David Thibodaux, was fourth with 10 percent.

But both primaries were so bitter that none of the four victors can count on support from the losers. In conservative Louisiana, party labels are secondary to local allegiances and personalities.

Mr. Cravins, a black centrist, said he will not support Mrs. Mount in the runoff because of a mail-out campaign by the state Democratic Party to black voters that depicted Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry, Mr. John and Mrs. Mount as a unified ticket.

Mr. Thibodaux was equally disgruntled with the national Republican Party, which he said spent $2 million on the Boustany campaign. Asked if he would endorse Dr. Boustany, his childhood friend, he replied: “I’m still thinking through it. I talked to Charles this afternoon, and I’m still in a state of decompression. I have some issues with my party, more so than with him.”

In the 3rd District, the Republican Congressional Campaign Committee ran attack ads against Mr. Melancon, while Mr. Tauzin ran his own attack ads against both Mr. Melancon and Mr. Romero.

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