Vitter takes lead in parish and state

Published 12:46 am Wednesday, November 3, 2010

VIDALIA — U.S. Sen. David Vitter had a significant lead over his Democratic opponent with most Louisiana precincts reporting Tuesday night.

Vitter won 62 percent of the vote in Concordia Parish, with 3,319 votes.

Opponent Charlie Melancon had 1,764 votes in Concordia Parish.

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Statewide, Vitter had 59 percent of the vote with approximately 30 percent of precincts reporting.

In the 5th Congressional District race, Incumbent Rodney Alexander easily defeated Tom Gibbs Jr. with 79 percent of the vote.

Alexander had 3,722 votes in Concordia Parish, 79 percent.

Turnout in Tuesday election was good statewide and higher than expected at 37 percent in Concordia, Clerk of Court Clyde Ray Webber said.

“We were expecting between 30 and 35 percent,” he said. “With the rain and everything, I would say we had a pretty good turnout.”

The only other race on the Concordia Parish ballot saw Jay Dardenne win locally and statewide over Caroline Fayard for lieutenant governor.

Dardenne surged to a 58 percent lead to Fayard’s 42 percent with most of the vote counted.

“We made a statement about our hope for the future of Louisiana and our belief that conservative government, fiscal responsibility and effectiveness and integrity in government mean something, no matter how long you may have been in a particular job,” Dardenne said.

Dardenne had 3,366 votes in Concordia Parish.

Early returns appear to show voters approved eight of the 10 proposed constitutional changes that were on Tuesday’s ballot — saying yes to a pay raise for lawmakers among other things.

Voters went big for the measure that limits when legislators can raise their salaries and salaries for some other statewide elected officials. It was a proposal that prompted heavy criticism two years ago when lawmakers tried to double their pay. The raise was eventually vetoed by Gov. Bobby Jindal amid intense public pressure.

The amendment requires that any approved pay increases for statewide elected officials, legislators and members of the Public Service Commission must take effect at the outset of a new term in office, so officials couldn’t raise their pay while in their current term.

Apparently narrowly defeated was Amendment Number 4, which would cut non-elected governing authorities’ power to increase their property tax revenue without voters’ approval. And votes against Amendment 7, which would change the bidding rules for tax sale auctions and let tax collectors charge extra penalties for unpaid property taxes, were slightly ahead of those for approval.

In other state races:

Democrats regained control Tuesday of the New Orleans-based 2nd District, ousting incumbent Republican Rep. Joseph Cao and giving the party a bright spot in a string of losses nationally in the House.

Cedric Richmond, a Democratic state lawmaker, handily defeated Cao after receiving the backing of President Obama in a district where two-thirds of voters are registered Democrats. With one-third of precincts reporting, Richmond had 57 percent of the vote, compared to 41 percent for Cao, the nation’s first Vietnamese-American congressman.

“Perhaps it was too much to ask for a predominantly Democratic district to send a Republican back to Congress, no matter how strong his record or how honest his service,” Cao said in his concession speech, pledging to work with Richmond for a smooth transition.

Republicans, meanwhile, picked up the open seat in the southeastern Louisiana-based 3rd District, retaining the balance of power in the state’s congressional delegation.

GOP contender Jeff Landry, a lawyer from New Iberia, defeated Democrat Ravi Sangisetty in the 3rd District. With two-thirds of precincts reporting, Landry had 64 percent of the vote, compared to 36 percent for Sangisetty, a lawyer from Houma.

Four incumbent GOP congressmen easily held onto their seats.

Cao was the only incumbent in Louisiana to lose Tuesday — and Republicans had expected the loss.

While Republicans lost the 2nd District, they regained the 3rd District seat representing much of south central and southeast Louisiana.

In three other congressional races, Republican incumbents won easy victories: Steve Scalise, of Jefferson, in the suburban New Orleans-based 1st District; John Fleming, of Minden, in western Louisiana’s 4th District and Bill Cassidy in the Baton Rouge-based 6th District.

Few incumbents had well-known opponents, and most of the challengers did little fundraising.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.