Vitter Avoids Runoff, Clinches GOP Victory in La.

Rep. David Vitter (search) became the first Louisiana Republican elected to the Senate since Reconstruction, vanquishing four Democrats on Tuesday to capture the seat outright.

Vitter needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a December runoff in the battle to replace retiring Democratic Sen. John Breaux (search). He easily outpaced the top Democrats in the race — state treasurer John Kennedy and Rep. Chris John (search).

The Harvard graduate and Rhodes Scholar currently represents an overwhelmingly Republican suburban New Orleans congressional district.

In his campaign, Vitter sought to link the Democrats to "liberals" in Washington.

The candidates battled over President Bush's tax cuts, health care and prescription drugs, with the Democrats portraying Vitter as a tool of Republican Party bosses and contending he would not as cooperative as Breaux was with his political opposites in Washington.

When accused by critics of grandstanding, Vitter answered: "A lot of people say I rocked the boat. I usually respond by saying I tipped it over a few times."

In the past two years, Democrats had made strong statewide showings in Lousiania. Democrat Mary Landrieu won re-election to the U.S. Senate in 2002. And last year, Democrat Kathleen Blanco won the Louisiana governor's race.