McCrery Opts To Stick Around

Posted March 1, 2004 at 6:45pm

Louisiana Rep. Jim McCrery (R) is set to announce that he will seek a 10th term at a press conference this morning in Shreveport, according to two informed Republican sources.

McCrery waffled publicly about his political future over the last 10 days as he weighed the potential to become chairman of the Ways and Means Committee in 2007 against his desire to spend more time with his wife and young children. He is expected to announce that he will move his family to Washington.

McCrery’s decision is a major victory for the House GOP leadership, many of whom lobbied hard to keep the Louisiana Republican in Congress. He called members of the leadership over the weekend to inform them of his decision, Republican sources said.

It also removes a potentially problematic open seat from the House playing field, although Democrats are still weighing the possibility of contesting the northwestern Louisiana 4th district in November.

“Regardless of McCrery’s staying in, if we get the right candidate we will definitely be looking at this seat,” said Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Communications Director Kori Bernards.

Louisiana is already a political hotbed for both parties with an open-seat Senate race and three open-seat House contests.

Reps. David Vitter (R) and Chris John (D) as well as state Treasurer John Kennedy (D) are running to replace retiring Sen. John Breaux (D).

Races are already under way to replace Vitter and John as well as Rep. Billy Tauzin (R), who has said he will retire at the end of the 108th Congress.

A special election could even be in the works if Tauzin bows out of his 3rd district seat before July, although that prospect seems to be growing increasingly unlikely.

The Tauzin and John seats will be seriously contested between the parties, while Republicans have a major edge in Vitter’s suburban New Orleans 1st district.

Today’s expected announcement by McCrery will bring to a close his brief flirtation with the private sector, which began Feb. 20 with his admission to a state political newsletter that he was pondering ending his career.

In a statement released that day, McCrery said he was “in the process of re-examining my obligation to my family, my constituents, my supporters, and to the House.” That came as a surprise to many Republicans, who had long viewed McCrery as a rising star.

McCrery, a close ally of Ways and Means Chairman Bill Thomas (R-Calif.), is seen as the leading contender to take over the gavel when Thomas faces term limits at the end of the 109th Congress.

In an interview late last week, McCrery acknowledged that the chairmanship is “something that I have thought about and factored into my thought process.”

“I’m assuming that I can be Ways and Means chairman,” he added.

McCrery’s decision is likely to disappoint the cavalcade of potential candidates in both parties that had been lining up to replace him.

The 4th district seat is seen as competitive between the parties as President Bush took 55 percent there in 2000, but Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) carried the district in the November open primary and December runoff last cycle as did then-Lt. Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D) in the 2003 gubernatorial race.

State Rep. Taylor Townsend (D) said Monday he had opened an exploratory committee for the race and would continue to seek the “input of people throughout the 4th district” on a potential bid.

Townsend certainly sounded like a candidate, however, saying that “if people decide they want a Congressman in absentia then I’m not their person.”

Ben Pershing contributed to this report.