Melancon challenges incumbent Vitter

Wade McIntyre
U.S. Rep. Charles Melancon speaks Wednesday in Gonzales.

NAPOLEONVILLE – Rep. Charlie Melancon (D) has announced that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. David Vitter (R). Melancon entered the race via an Internet video emailed to supporters in Louisiana last week.

The congressman said he plans later this year to hold a campaign kick-off with events and rallies around the state.

“I'm announcing my candidacy for the US Senate to replace Republican David Vitter because Louisiana deserves better,” Melancon said.  “Louisiana needs a different approach.  More bi-partisan.  More disciplined.  More honest and with a whole lot more common sense.”

Melancon, a former lobbyist for the sugar industry, described himself as an ambassador for the state’s sugar industry, and an owner and operator of several successful businesses. He touted his business background as one about demanding accountability, getting results and solving problems.

“I'm a proud family man, the father of two great children...and Peachy and I celebrated our 37th wedding anniversary just last week,” Melancon said.

The congressman indicated he and his wife would run a campaign “that starts from the ground up -- around the kitchen table, fence posts, and barber shops -- not out of Washington with all the slick mumbo-jumbo that ends up dividing us.”

Melancon, whose announcement had been anticipated, is considered a strong Democratic candidate in the race against Vitter, who is still dogged by a sex scandal and allegations he was a client of Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the D.C. Madam.

Melancon, a Blue Dog (socially liberal, fiscally conservative) Democrat is, however, portrayed by opponents as a siding too often with the perceived liberal policies of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and President Obama. He has been criticized by opponents for not holding Town Hall style meetings on the health care issue.

On Aug. 31, the congressman announced he would begin holding telephone town hall meetings in the evenings when most people are home.

“In these tough economic times we've gotta be a whole lot smarter,” Melancon said. “First, we must get government spending and this deficit under control...while creating more economic opportunity for Louisiana, by cutting taxes on small businesses, and making responsible investments in job training and college opportunity.”

He said he would make sure veterans get the unwavering support that they have earned, because it's a senator's number one job to protect the nation, keep Louisiana safe from terrorists, and keep the military strong.

Melancon said insiders in Washington need to spend less time bickering over political points or sticking it to the other guy and start bringing people together. The only question is does it make sense for Louisiana, he said.

“I'm a pro-life, pro-gun, southern democrat,” Melancon 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.”

He recalled that his most rewarding moment as a congressman came from a partnership with private organizations, Republicans, and Democrats after hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when everyone came together “to alleviate the suffering and ensure people received the help they needed.”

“Party politics was the last thing on my mind,” he said. “I got into public service to help people, period.”