Using his past legislative and private sector experience as a cudgel against his opponent, former state Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) won a narrow victory to claim Louisiana’s open 3rd district seat.
Melancon defeated former BellSouth lobbyist Billy Tauzin III (R), the youngest son of the retiring Congressman of the same name, by just 569 votes in the Dec. 4 runoff.
Although President Bush carried the southeastern Louisiana district last month with nearly 60 percent, both sides acknowledged it was a swing seat.
Though Tauzin III’s last name clearly benefited him in the Nov. 2 all-party primary — where he led the balloting with 32 percent — the taint of nepotism seemed to hurt him in the runoff.
Melancon, 57, and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee unleashed a torrent of ads that used Tauzin III’s age (he turned 31 just days before the runoff) as evidence that the current Congressman was seeking a coronation, not an election.
The Democrat painted himself as the adult in the race, pointing out that he had decades more experience than Tauzin III in the public and private sector.
Melancon resigned as president of the American Sugar Cane League to make the run for Congress. He had served in that post for 11 years.
His first political service came in the state House when he won a 1987 special election. Melancon resigned his seat in 1993 to take the ASCL opening.
Melancon holds an undergraduate degree in agribusiness from the University of Southwestern Louisiana. He also owned his own insurance company and several Baskin-Robbins franchise stores.
He and his wife, Peachy, have two children — Seph and Claire.