Vitter faces first re-election hurdle

DEIDRE CRUSE, Governmental Reporter

Iberville Clerk of Court J. G. “Bubbie” Dupont Jr. predicts a turnout of a scant five percent of local voters – if that – will turn out for the first party primary elections Saturday.

The polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. parishwide, nevertheless.

Only 93 of the parish's 21,136 eligible voters cast early ballots, according to the Iberville Registrar of Voters Office.

A scandal-plagued incumbent U. S. senator battling tough opposition within his own party, and a strong Democratic challenger in the wings, seems to have failed to stir the local electorate. Neither has an historic third party primary.

“We'll be lucky if we get five percent,” Dupont lamented.

U. S. Sen. David Vitter faces two challengers in the Republican Party primary election Saturday, including retired Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Trayler of Monroe, a surprise last-minute entry.

His chief Democratic opponent U. S. Rep. Charlie Melancon faces two lesser-known candidates in his party primary.

For the first time in Louisiana, the Libertarian Party is holding a party primary election, with two candidates vying to be its U. S. Senate nominee. Voters in some Iberville precincts will vote in the Fifth Congressional District race.

Voter interest appears to be low despite the negative TV ad campaign already joined by Vitter and Melancon.

Trayler, whose personal life has come under scrutiny in the North Louisiana press, has run print ads attacking Vitter directly for his connection to a Washington D.C. prostitution scandal in 2007 and the recent revelation that the senator kept an aide on staff for two years after the man was accused of a knife attack on his girlfriend.

A poll conducted for Trayler by Verne Kennedy of Market Research Institute showed Trayler might force Vitter into a run-off for the Republican nomination, The Ouachita Citizen reported last week. The poll showed Vitter at 46 percent and Trayler at 34, with 21 percent undecided, the newspaper said.

Franklin physician Nick J. Accardo is the third Republican in the primary.

In the quieter Democratic primary, Melancon of Napoleonville, Third District congressman since 2005, faces opposition from retired postal worker Neeson J. Chauvin Jr. of Carencro and Metairie attorney Cary J. Deaton.

In the Libertarian Party primary, the contest is between Anthony Gentile of Mandeville, who has made previous runs for governor and First District congressman, and Randall Todd Hayes of Atlanta, Louisiana, who has worked in finance and television production and has a law degree from LSU.

Republican Fifth District U. S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, seeking a fourth term, faces a challenge from Todd Slavant of Monroe, a Tea Party advocate who is the owner of a construction and property management business.

Republican voters in Precincts 13A through 15, 16, 19 through 23, 26 and 27 through 32 can vote in the Fifth Congressional District race.

The Republican primary in the U. S. Senate race also is restricted to Republican voters.

Unaffiliated voters can vote in either the Democratic or Libertarian primaries.

According to Voter Registrar Melissa S. Bourgoyne, for this election, Iberville has 15,665 Democrats, 2,634 Republicans and 2,837 voters registered to other parties or no party.

Wednesday is the deadline for residents to register to vote in the October 2 elections, which will include any necessary second party primaries in the congressional races, as well as open primaries in state and local elections.

The general election is scheduled for Tuesday, November 2.