Louisiana is the least Southern of the Southern states. Home of jazz and jambalaya, not fried chicken and sweet tea, the culture is a blend of hearty people, descendents of colonists under many flags. Strongly religious, it is the only state in the Southeast with a huge Catholic population, a relic of Spanish and French colonialism. Louisiana’s unique characteristics lend to its unpredictability, especially on Election Day.
Louisiana is also home to a unique system of selecting officials. As the only state in the nation without a primary system, parties do not nominate candidates. Candidates from all parties run against one another on Election Day in November, with the top two vote getters advancing to a runoff in December.
Which is why the race for the 3rd District is, realistically, a rematch. In 2004, Charlie Melancon, Billy Tauzin III and state Senator Craig Romero all sought to succeed longtime Representative Billy Tauzin, Tauzin III’s father. Tauzin III led the way in the general election with 32 percent, while Melancon squeaked by Romero with 23.9 percent and 23.1 percent, respectively. Ultimately, Melancon defeated Tauzin III by a mere 569 votes.
Craig Romero is still rather bitter about the outcome of the 2004 election. He complained vociferously about the Louisiana Republican Party and the National Republican Congressional Committee — both of which backed Tauzin III in the general election—and their tactic of pushing him aside to support Tauzin III. Romero thought that the Republicans should have backed whoever made it through the general to the runoff, without picking sides beforehand.
Truthfully, had Romero focused less on his Republican opponent in 2004 — he campaigned vigorously against Tauzin III, instead of against Melancon — he might already be sitting at his desk in Cannon House Office Building, where Congressman Melancon now sits. Furthermore, much of the bad blood between Tauzin III and Romero during the general election caused many Republicans to stay home on the day of the runoff, pushing the 569-vote winning margin to the Democratic side. Melancon’s victory was astonishing; in the current political climate, Democrats just don’t wrestle seats away from Republicans.
Romero said he has faith that his 2006 campaign will result in a Republican victory. "I think it was a hiccup of an election cycle," Romero said, as the 3rd District voted 60 percent in favor of President Bush in 2004.