Just before the end of qualifying for the U.S. Senate race late this afternoon in Louisiana, a well-known former state Supreme Court justice jumped in to the Republican primary against incumbent David Vitter.
It’s been a long time since I covered Louisiana politics, but if memory serves Chet Traylor was first elected to the court in the 1990s with major, major backing from the state’s biggest business group in an effort to steer the court to the right. It was a hugely expensive race by the standards of the day. We’ll be reporting more on this development, but what it suggests to me is that the business community is abandoning Vitter. And unless things have changed a lot in the dozen years since I moved away, Traylor is going to have access to boatloads of campaign cash for this primary.
The other problem this potentially poses for Vitter is geographic and cultural. Traylor is a good ol’ boy from rural northeast Louisiana. Vitter is a Harvard-educated former Rhodes Scholar from the New Orleans area. That didn’t pose a problem for Vitter when he first won election in 2004, in what was then an open nonpartisan primary. But the law was since changed and it’s a closed Republican primary now, so he’ll be facing Traylor straight up. Throw in Vitter’s dalliances with prostitutes, and Traylor is in a strong position to exploit the old rural-urban (or New Orleans v. not New Orleans) fault lines.
Democrats in Louisiana are smiling tonight.
David Kurtz is Managing Editor and Washington Bureau Chief of Talking Points Memo where he oversees the news operations of TPM and its sister sites.