NEW ORLEANS — Louisiana Republicans appear to have forgiven Sen. David Vitter's "serious sin." The first-term Republican brushed aside his primary challengers to secure the GOP nomination Saturday.
Vitter outpaced his closest rival, former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor (R), by 80 percent with 877 of 3,877 precincts reporting. The Associated Press declared him the winner.
Turnout was dismal for the low-key contest. Still, this was Vitter's first electoral test since his Senate career was marred by a personal scandal in 2007 — and he passed. Many observers had questioned his re-election chances after his telephone number appeared in the phone records of the "D.C. Madam.”
The calls dated from before his run for Senate in 2004. He issued a statement apologizing for committing a "serious sin," but never elaborated.
Most recently, it came to light that a longtime Vitter aide, Brent Furer, worked for the senator despite a lengthy rap sheet that included arrests for cocaine possession and drunken driving. Furer was also arrested on suspicion of assaulting a female friend with a knife and threatening to kill her. He later pleaded guilty to lesser charges.
Traylor said his last-minute decision to enter the primary was prompted by widespread discontent in the GOP with incumbent Vitter. "I wouldn’t say that [scandal] was the last straw, but that’s just one more of many," Traylor told The Hill in July. "A lot of people that I talk to are just dissatisfied [with Vitter] when they can’t even get a phone call returned, so it's across the board. It’s not just any one thing."
Since the election of President Obama, Vitter has positioned himself as a staunch opponent of the Democrats’ agenda — a popular position in Louisiana.
He served three terms in the House before getting elected to the Senate in 2004. He'll likely face Rep. Charlie Melancon (D-La.) in November. Vitter starts the race with a significant financial advantage. He had $5.3 million in the bank as of Aug. 8. Melancon had $2.2 million cash on hand at the same time.