Sabatos Crystal Ball

Louisiana Senate 2004

Three Democrats and two Republicans vie for Louisiana's open seat

UVA Center for Politics October 22nd, 2004


With Louisiana’s open primary system, the slate of candidates facing voters on Election Day isn’t as simple as one Democrat against one Republican. Any number of candidates from any party may enter the race, but to be declared the winner, one must secure a majority of votes. In a race with seven official candidates–four of which have a legitimate shot at winning–eclipsing 50 percent of the vote may not be that easy.

David Vitter is the lone Republican in the field, and thus he has the best chance of winning outright on Nov. 2. Three Democrats round out the four contenders: Chris John, John Kennedy, and Arthur Morrell.

David Vitter is a three-term U.S. Congressman from Metairie, who has served on the House Appropriations Committee and the House Republican Policy Committee. He has worked on such issues as national missile defense, HMO and prescription drug reform, and Social Security. Vitter’s platform is entitled “Fighting for our Future,” and focuses on programs for Louisiana as well as the nation. He recently was endorsed by former governor Charles “Buddy” Roemer.

Chris John is also a U.S. Congressman, finishing his fourth term representing the seventh district of the Bayou State. He has served on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, as well as the Energy and Air Quality and the Health subcommittees. A moderate Democrat, John is member of the Blue Dog Coalition. He has also been endorsed by Senator John Breaux, and Breaux has spent time campaigning for John in the state.

John Kennedy is in his second term as state treasurer, having been reelected without opposition in 2003. A former secretary of revenue for the state, Kennedy is running on a platform of fiscal accomplishments and responsibility, including managing the state’s tobacco settlement, increasing its bond rating, and protecting the “rainy day” fund. Kennedy was recently endorsed by the Shreveport Times.

Arthur Morrell is a twenty-year veteran of the state legislature, and the only minority candidate in the race. He has chaired the Joint Capitol Outlay Committee and served on the Appropriations, Ways and Means, and the Joint Budget Committee, among others. Morrell is endorsed by NOW, and is campaigning as both the only candidate with active duty military experience, and the only candidate publicly supporting the Kerry-Edwards ticket.

In all likelihood, Louisiana will vote for George Bush in the 2004 presidential election, and as the only Republican on the ballot, Vitter is trying to use this to his advantage and win the race outright. The Democrats had previously been playing it safe by running low key, non-confrontational campaigns in hopes of sliding through to the runoff, where the advantage–though slight–would shift to their party. Now polls are showing Vitter approaching the 50 percent mark, and Democrats are scurrying to react. The NRSC has caught on as well, spending 1 million on an ad campaign to run until Election Day.