- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 1, 2004

LAKE CHARLES, La. — Vice President Dick Cheney brought the Bush administration’s popularity to bear yesterday in two hotly contested Louisiana runoffs for the U.S. House’s last undecided seats.

One, for the 3rd District, is held by Republican Billy Tauzin, who is retiring because of intestinal cancer; the other is held by Democrat Chris John of the 7th District, who lost a Senate bid on Nov. 2 to Republican Rep. David Vitter.

The runoff election is on Saturday.

The 3rd District race pits Mr. Tauzin’s son, Billy Tauzin III, 30, against former state Rep. Charlie Melancon, 57. In the 7th District, political newcomer Charles Boustany Jr., 48, a retired heart surgeon and a Republican, faces Democratic state Sen. Willie Landry Mount, 55, a former Lake Charles mayor.

Mr. Cheney spoke in Houma for Mr. Tauzin in the morning and for Mr. Boustany in Lake Charles in the afternoon.

“I haven’t had so much fun since we beat John Kerry,” he said to about 1,000 cheering Boustany supporters. “It’s great to be here in Louisiana where you helped us do it.”

Also appearing at the rally were Mr. Vitter and U.S. Rep.-elect Bobby Jindal.

President Bush carried Louisiana by 57 percent and these two districts by about 60 percent. Both Mr. Boustany and Mr. Tauzin have tied themselves closely to the president.

Mrs. Mount and Mr. Melancon, however, have been endorsed by two equally popular Democrats — U.S. Sen. John B. Breaux, who is retiring, and by Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

Both races have been marked by mudslinging. Because all four candidates are conservative and pro-life, the campaigns have been short on issues and long on personal attacks.

The Democratic ad campaigns suggest Mr. Boustany and Mr. Tauzin will privatize Social Security, a sacred cow in the state.

Republican ads, meanwhile, accuse Mr. Melancon and Mrs. Mount of being tax-and-spend liberals, citing isolated votes in the Legislature.

No polls have been taken, but mathematics give Mr. Boustany the edge over Mrs. Mount. He received 39 percent to Mrs. Mount’s 25 percent in the open primary Nov. 2.

Under Louisiana’s unique open primary, candidates of both parties appeared on the same ballot.

In the 3rd District, Mr. Tauzin finished first Nov. 2 with 31 percent, Mr. Melancon finished second with 24 percent, and Republican state Sen. Craig Romero finished third with 23 percent. Mr. Romero has refused to endorse Mr. Tauzin because of the mudslinging ads hurled at him during the primary.

Veteran state political commentator John Maginnis said Mr. Boustany has a better chance of winning than Mr. Tauzin.

“It helps a lot to be a doctor,” he said. “[Mr. Tauzin] has got a great name, but he’s got the weaker resume of the two.”

Thus far, the next House will have 231 Republicans, 201 Democrats and one independent.

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