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Inside Politics

Runoff for another Louisiana district

3rd Congressional District between Tauzin, Melancon


SPECIAL REPORT
House: LA 03 Updated: 5:33 p.m. ET
Tauzin III 32%
Melancon 24%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- Louisiana's 3rd District, which lacked an incumbent for the first time in 24 years, had six candidates vying to fill the vacancy.

They included three Republicans (Billy Tauzin III, state Sen. Craig Romero, and newcomer Kevin Chiasson) and three Democrats (state Rep. Damon Baldone, Charmaine Caccioppi and Charlie Melancon).

Tauzin and Melancon appear to have won the two spots in a December runoff election, though it will take several days for all votes to be counted.

National Democratic officials had hoped to pick up a seat out of this race, but two mid-October candidate-commissioned polls showed two Republicans in the lead -- Tauzin, the son of the man vacating the seat, and Romero. Those poll results, coupled with the fact that President Bush carried the district in 2000, pointed to the possibility that the three Dems might split the vote and produce an all-Republican runoff.

However, those polls were taken before the candidates began their TV ad campaigns, and the district, which boasts 61 percent Democratic voter registration, backed Democrats Bill Clinton twice for president and Kathleen Blanco last year for governor.

The TV commercials created some controversy among the Democratic candidates. According to a report in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, three days after a national Democratic organization debuted its television commercial for Melancon, one of his Democratic opponents blasted the group. Caccioppi, who was trailing four other candidates in fund-raising, said if national Democrats wanted to get involved, they should have given cash to all three Democratic candidates.

Baldone spokesman Brett Kincaid said the committee was merely responding to Melancon's early fund-raising success. The Times-Picayune quoted Kincaid as saying the committee "panicked" when it saw some polls showing two Republicans leading the pack, so it backed the wealthiest Democrat.

The Republicans weren't without their share of turmoil. The Times-Picayune reported that campaign records showed U.S. Rep. Billy Tauzin Jr. (the father of candidate Tauzin) gave $40,000 to the Louisiana Republican Party in August, shortly before the state GOP started promoting his son to succeed him.

Although "it comes as no surprise that the retiring congressman backs his son, the money transfer is raising questions in the opposition camp of state Sen. Craig Romero, where some suggest it amounted to a backdoor way to give Billy Tauzin III more than the law allows," the newspaper reported.

Roger Hamilton, a Romero supporter who filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, was quoted as saying, "It's coordination. They are coordinating between the two Tauzins and the state Republican Party." Representatives of both Tauzins and the state GOP denied those charges.


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