Chet Traylor seeks to upset Sen. David Vitter in Louisiana’s Republican Senate primary

Steven Powell Former federal prosecutor
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As anti-incumbency angst echoes throughout the country, one Deep South primary candidate is attempting to ride that wave of anger to score an upset victory.

Chet Traylor jumped into the Louisiana Republican primary race at the 11th hour last week to face incumbent Republican David Vitter. His move has stirred debate among the state’s conservatives, since the Vitter camp already seemed to be honing in on the general election.

Traylor, a retired Louisiana Supreme Court justice, is essentially running on the same political platform as Vitter, basing his opposition purely on Vitter’s electability. Traylor says he’s worried Vitter – the center of a 2007 prostitution scandal and a recent incident concerning an aide convicted of attacking and threatening to kill his girlfriend – would make an easy target for his Democratic challenger during the general election.

Traylor said in multiple interviews that he wouldn’t oppose Vitter if the senator was in “good shape” for the general election, but Traylor contends that Vitter has recently declined in favorability.

There is little doubt that Traylor faces an uphill battle against Vitter, who despite his scandals is still a politically popular incumbent. Vitter also has an impressive $5.5 million campaign war chest.

In addition, Vitter has won the endorsement of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, state GOP Chairman Roger Villere and the Louisiana Republican Party.

But one endorsement Vitter has failed to gain is that of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has so far declined the opportunity to endorse him – though he has attended Vitter fundraising events. However, some may see this as good news for Vitter, who won’t be touched by the so-called “Jindal Endorsement Curse,” referring to three lost elections between 2008 and 2009 by Jindal backed candidates.

Despite Traylor’s confidence in Vitter’s vulnerability, John Maginnis, a Louisiana political analyst and the publisher of LaPolitics Weekly, offers a different view of the situation.

“Vitter still has support among Republicans, especially the Tea Party, religious and business groups,” he said.

Vitter has the right stances on political issues to win among Republicans – which is why Traylor mirrors Vitter’s stances on the issues, Maginnis said. But the biggest fear haunting Republicans is that the Democrats may be sitting on another Vitter scandal to release right before the general election. This will be Traylor’s main line of attack.

Maginnis said the best-case scenario for Democrats is for Vitter to win the primary after a hard-fought battle.

“Democrats are hoping for Vitter to win, they just need Traylor to bloody him up a little,” he said. “The down side to a Traylor victory for Democrats would be Republicans carrying momentum into the general election.”
To put up a viable fight against Vitter, Maginnis says Traylor needs to raise $700,000, something he sees as feasible considering the support Traylor has seen from voters. Traylor has said in recent interviews that he received a lot of calls to run from voters concerned about Vitter’s troubles. He said he decided to run after it was clear he could drum up enough public support to launch a serious challenge.

The Republican Senate primary is scheduled for August 28. Sixteen people signed up to run by last week’s deadline – one name not on the list was Porn Star Stormy Daniels, who expressed interest to run earlier in the year.