Now that Landry has survived the primary, albeit 15 points behind, and the Democrats have packed up their wagon, the oddsmakers are upgrading to No. 4 pencils.
Who knew that Landry, a first-time officeholder and Cajun good ol’ boy who favors boots and jeans, would turn out to be such a natural politician?
And it probably doesn’t hurt his chances that he has gained a reputation for throwing up roadblocks at a time when a fair number of voters in the district (and elsewhere) are convinced the country is going to hell in the fast lane.
If the 41-year-old lawyer and businessman goes on to have an illustrious political career, it’s a sure bet that one of the images in his biography will be that of a remonstrative Landry at President Obama’s 2011 “jobs speech” holding a sign that read, for all news outlets to see, DRILLING = JOBS.
Even with such theatrics, it’s hard to raise much dust in a freshman class of 87, entering a House of 435 and joining a Tea Party Caucus of 61. Landry did it, though. He drew national attention when he declined a congressman’s Cadillac health care and retirement benefits, and again when he turned back over $160,000 in unused office expenses to the national treasury.
His efforts to end Congressional pensions, block the president’s liberal use of recess appointments, his vote against the debt ceiling deal and the Super Committee and his push for a balanced budget amendment have earned him friends in red precincts all across the nation. In addition to being a Tea Party favorite, he has garnered endorsements from the Family Research Council, Freedom Works, Citizens United, the National Taxpayers Union Campaign Fund, and nationally syndicated radio commentator Mark Levin.
Landry is a St. Martinville native (his great-grandfather helped to start the newspaper that is now Teche News) who has served in the National Guard, been in law enforcement, and earned a law degree at Loyola University.
In 2007 he tried to succeed a term-limited state Sen. Craig Romero, for whom he had worked as an aide. In a very tight three-way race with term-limited state Reps. Troy Hebert of Jeanerette and Sydnie Mae Durand of St. Martinville, Landry polled the highest, 35 percent to 33 for Hebert and 32 for Durand (it was a career-ender for the long-serving and locally popular Durand). But Landry narrowly lost the runoff, 51-49, to Hebert (who resigned in his first term to accept appointment as Commissioner of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control).
In 2010, U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon, perhaps foreseeing the post-Census game of musical seats, left the House to challenge U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Landry jumped into the open race and nearly won a closed Republican primary (a hair under 50 percent) against former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives Hunt Downer (36 percent) and political newcomer Kristian Magar of New Iberia (14 percent).
With the support of the emerging Tea Party,
Landry trounced Downer 65-35 percent in the runoff.
The matchup on Dec. 8 is against the relatively moderate former heart surgeon, Charles Boustany Jr. Both are incumbents but Boustany has been in office longer – four terms to Landry’s one – and more importantly, has a considerable turf advantage. It is for this reason that Washington insiders called Landry the most vulnerable Republican incumbent in the House.
These traditional advantages for Boustany are reflected behind dollar signs as well. As of the Oct. 25 filing, Boustany had spent nearly twice as much, $2.2 million to $1.2 million, and was nearly third ahead in cash on hand.
Of course fund-raising continues apace, with contribution limits reset to $2,500 for individuals and $5,000 for PACs, and expectations are this will be a $5 million race before it’s done.
And if there is a wild card in conservative southwestern Louisiana’s reaction to the reelection of Barack Obama, it is almost certainly up Jeff Landry’s sleeve.