I don’t think anyone really saw this coming.
On the final day for qualifying to run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by David Vitter, two well-known elected officials, a former LA Supreme Court judge, Chet Traylor, and a State Senator, Ernest Wooton, decided to enter the race; both men are conservative Republicans.
Although Wooton was elected as a Republican, he will skip the primary against Vitter and run as an independent in the general election. Wooton won’t be the only conservative “independent” in the general election; at least half a dozen other conservative candidates will likely also be on the general election ballot.
Traylor, however, will challenge Vitter in the Republican primary. TPM explains:
Vitter has plenty of money in the bank and, with just weeks to go, time on his side. But Traylor could catch up quickly.
Traylor was elected to the court on the strength of support from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which suggests that Vitter might have lost the support of the business community (at least over the course of the next several weeks until the primary).
And, in the meantime, Traylor will make Vitter spend money he had planned to save, and nudge him off his anti-Obama message, or at least distract him from it. Traylor appeared Friday evening with Roy Fletcher, a high-powered GOP consultant whose work helped propel Mike Foster to victory in the 1995 gubernatorial race.
Traylor was the very conservative justice who once wrote in an opinion upholding a Louisiana sodomy law that “any claim that private sexual conduct between consenting adults is constitutionally insulated from state proscription is unsupportable,” so you can bet that he’ll blast the already conservative Vitter from the right, and draw blood over Vitter’s high-profile scandals.
This race just got much, much more interesting: The incumbent Senator was handed, at the last minute, serious intra-party opposition.
Traylor’s last-minute filing comes as a huge surprise, however, for both Democrats and Republicans in the state. Roy Fletcher, a Republican political consultant who served as Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) deputy campaign manager in 2000, escorted Traylor to the filing office but said in an e-mail that he is “just a friend” for now. Traylor did not return a phone call requesting an interview.
Bradley Beychok, campaign manager for Melancon, said he was pleasantly surprised there was a “viable challenger at the last minute” in the Louisiana Senate Republican primary.
“We look forward to our primary on Aug. 28 and certainly Sen. Vitter has a very competitive primary with a very respected Republican on the same day,” Beychok said.