Louisiana Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) announced Thursday morning that he will challenge Sen. David Vitter (R) in 2010, setting up a key Senate showdown in the Bayou State.
While local media had reported that Melancon made a final decision on the Senate race in June, Melancon delivered his official announcement in a video e-mailed to supporters.
“I’m announcing my candidacy for the U.S. Senate to replace David Vitter because Louisiana deserves better,— Melancon said. “Louisiana needs a different approach. More bipartisan. More disciplined. More honest and with a whole lot more common sense.—
Melancon is considered by many analysts to be the Democrats’ best chance of knocking off Vitter in a state that has trended more Republican in recent years. Vitter’s vulnerability in the state is tied solely to his connection to the “D.C. Madam— prostitution scandal in 2007, and state Democrats have been working hard to keep Vitter’s involvement in that scandal fresh in voters’ minds.
Melancon, who was elected to succeed former Rep. Billy Tauzin (R) in 2004, stressed his conservative credentials in his announcement Thursday.
“I’m a pro-life, pro-gun, Southern Democrat,— he said. “I have an A’ rating with the NRA, and I have been an avid hunter and fisherman my entire life. I am a proud centrist — a Blue Dog — a straight-up-the-middle fighter for the little guy who is struggling to make ends meet.—
Melancon earned praise Thursday from Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (N.J.).
“Charlie may have stepped into the national spotlight when he helped lead efforts to assist Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but Louisianans know him best as a proud family man and experienced small business owner with a common sense approach to bringing people together, solving problems and getting results,— Menendez said in a statement from the committee.
National Republicans are certain to try to tie Melancon to more liberal politicians in Washington, D.C.
“Whether he’s championing President Obama’s bloated spending agenda, supporting Nancy Pelosi’s job-killing card check’ legislation, or voting hand in hand with the Democrats in Washington 93 percent of the time in 2008, Charlie Melancon has clearly demonstrated that he is not in touch with the issues that are important to the people of Louisiana,— National Republican Senatorial Committee spokeswoman Amber Wilkerson said.
Second-quarter Federal Election Commission reports showed Vitter with $3.2 million in cash on hand while Melancon had $1.2 million in the bank at the end of June.