The final hours of Louisiana’s candidate qualifying period brought surprise challenges to embattled Sen. David Vitter.
Vitter drew two opponents in the Republican primary, which will force him to spend campaign money earlier as he tries to convince his party to stick with him. Then, if he wins the nomination, the unexpected addition of extra names to the November ballot will change the complexion of the general election campaign.
Altogether, 17 candidates qualified to run for the Senate seat by Friday’s deadline — Vitter, two other Republicans, three Democrats, two Libertarians, a Reform Party candidate and eight no-party candidates.
One of Vitter’s challengers in the Aug. 28 primary, Chet Traylor, is a former Louisiana Supreme Court justice, according to the Associated Press.
With Traylor on the ballot, Republicans who haven’t forgiven Vitter for the 2007 prostitution scandal — or who are troubled by his decision to keep an aide on staff for two years after attacking his girlfriend with a knife — may find a serious alternative.
Until the revelations about his staffer, Vitter seemed to be in good shape, with strong fundraising and independent polling that showed him ahead of Rep. Charlie Melancon, the presumptive Democratic nominee.
Also running against Vitter in the primary is Nick Accardo, a physician who made unsuccessful runs for the House and Senate in the 1990s.
Even if Vitter defeats his two GOP rivals, he won’t have an easy road ahead. The crowded general election ballot will add an unpredictable element, especially since one of the names is a locally well-known Republican state Representative, Ernest Wooton, who changed his registration from Republican to no affiliation just for the November race.