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Louisiana: Two Open Seats Headed to Run Offs

A Republican retired heart surgeon in his first political race will face a polished Democratic state senator in a December runoff for southwest Louisiana's congressional seat—as the state's voters faced a busier than normal U.S. House ballot Tuesday.

GOP candidate Charles Boustany will have stiff competition for the Seventh District post from Democrat Willie Mount, who eked out the second runoff position over Don Cravins. The seat was vacated by Chris John, who is running for the U.S. Senate.

In other congressional races, three incumbents won easy re-election to their House seats, including Republican Rodney Alexander, a Democrat incumbent who switched parties in the waning minutes of the sign-up period. Congressmen Richard Baker and William Jefferson coasted to quick victories.

Alexander never wavered in his lead despite the switch, which generated vehement complaints about a sneaky political maneuver to shut out any serious Democratic opposition.

Alexander's opponents, Republican Jock Scott and Democrat Zelma Blakes never really did much damage to Alexander's re-election hopes. Scott was abandoned by the GOP when Alexander turned Republican and Blakes never really got the support of her own party or its state political machines.

Of the three open U.S. House seats in the state, only one victory was decided Tuesday night, in suburban New Orleans.

There, Republican Bobby Jindal, who failed to take the governor's mansion last year, coasted to an easy victory, beating out five other opponents and becoming the only Indian-American in Congress. He will represent the 1st District, which covers suburban New Orleans and was left open by David Vitter, who was running against John for the Senate post.

Despite his consistent lead, Jindal said he took the race seriously. "We started every day as though we were 30 points behind. We knocked on 100,000 doors. We held dozens of backyard parties," he said.

Jindal's avoidance of a runoff gives him an advantage over the state's other new congressmen, who will be selected a month after the rest of the nation's congressional seats are filled.

"I certainly think they may start off with a slight disadvantage than the rest of the freshman class," Jindal said.

Besides the 7th District, the final open seat in the 3rd District —left vacant by Rep. Billy Tauzin, who was retiring after 24 years in the seat and a battle with intestinal cancer—was also headed to a run off.

Billy Tauzin III, a 30-year-old Republican lobbyist in his first political race, was hoping to take over the post from his father.

But he faced stiff opposition from Republican state Sen. Craig Romero, who attacked Tauzin III as politically inexperienced, and from national Democrats who poured money behind Charlie Melancon, a former state lawmaker who once headed the American Sugar Cane League.

With more than 90 percent of the precincts reporting, Melancon and Tauzin moved to the top of the trio in a tally too close to call.

The three remaining congressional seats weren't really contests at all.

U.S. Rep. Jim McCrery, R-Shreveport, was unopposed for re-election in his northwest Louisiana district. And firmly entrenched Congressmen Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, and William Jefferson, D-New Orleans, coasted to quick victories after attracting only marginal opponents whose campaigns remained little noticed going into election day.