Louisiana's 4th District: Open Opportunity?
The retirement of Rep. Jim McCrery (R-La.) , which broke late Friday night, brings to 17 the number of Republicans leaving Congress at the end of 2008.
McCrery's departure -- while not totally unexpected -- is a powerful symbolic blow for a party that is desperately trying to rally its Members heading into an election year. McCrery is among the most powerful of House Republicans as the ranking member on the influential Ways and Means Committee and a co-chair of the CHOMP (Challengers Helping Obtain the Majority Program), which, aside from being a terrible acronym, raises money for Republican candidates taking on Democratic incumbents.
The seat he leaves behind has the potential to be competitive although it is certainly not in the same class of districts as places like New Mexico's 1st district, Ohio's 15th and 16th districts, Minnesota's 3rd and New Jersey's 3rd.
Here's our sketch of the district. (For past sketches, click here.)
Geography: The 4th spans much of northwestern Louisiana. Shreveport (birthplace of Fix mentor Charlie Cook) is the seat's population center, with the rest of the vote scattered in rural communities to the south and east.
Electoral Results: Past elections in the 4th district provide a mixed bag. Rep. Buddy Roemer (D) held it before running and winning the governorship in 1987. In the special election that followed, McCrery, who had once worked for Roemer, won with 51 percent. He rarely faced serious re-election contests with the exception of 1992 when redistricting forced McCrery and Rep. Jerry Huckaby (D) into a member versus member scramble. McCrery won a runoff with 63 percent. On the statewide level, the district is just as hard to figure. President Bush won here with 55 percent in 2000 and 59 percent in 2004 but Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) carried it in 2002 as did then Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D) in 2003.
Candidates: Given that McCrery's retirement announcement happened late Friday, the list of potential replacements is somewhat short. For Democrats, the leading choice is Keith Hightower, the former Mayor of Shreveport who had pledged not to challenge McCrery but is interested in an open seat. The most commonly mentioned name for Republicans is Jerry Jones, who lost the mayoral race in that city in 2006.
Outlook: The 4th won't ever be one of Democrats' top five -- or even top 10 -- open seat races given the panoply of opportunities they currently have nationwide. The district has a decided conservative tilt but the fact that both Landrieu and Blanco have carried make it somewhat more interesting. The other thing to remember in this district is that is covered by very inexpensive media markets, meaning that the cash-rich Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee could easily take a flier here next November if the poll numbers look doable.
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