Former congressman takes over Louisiana Democrats in 'disarray'

Louisiana Democrats unanimously elected former Rep. Claude "Buddy" Leach as their new party chairman Saturday.
 
Observers say the former one-term congressman is taking over a party in “disarray.”

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“They’re in bad shape,” said John Maginnis, who writes a widely-read newsletter about Louisiana politics. “The party’s in the doldrums. They haven’t had much leadership.”

Louisiana Democrats have grumbled about the state party since 2008, when they lost a long-held House seat and failed to win any of the state's open congressional races. The party only holds one House seat and that member, Rep. Charlie Melancon, is running for Senate.

Democrats hope to reverse that trend this cycle, while potentially picking up Sen. David VitterDavid Bruce VitterLobbying World Senate confirms Trump judge who faced scrutiny over abortion views Collins votes against Trump judicial pick MORE’s (R-La.) seat. But the state party has had an interim chairman since December when Chris Whittington, a Baton Rouge attorney, resigned because he was too busy starting up a new law group to give the job his full attention.

“The problems go beyond party structure. The state has been voting more and more Republican,” Maginnis said, adding that Leach’s election will give the Democrats a "marginal" boost. “He can raise money and he’s an old-time Democrat. He’ll give some leadership and voice to the party," he said.

Republicans, meanwhile, have a suggestion for Leach's first course of action.

“I demand that upon your election as Chairman of the Democratic Party of Louisiana, you immediately ask for [Michael] McHale’s resignation from the Democratic State Central Committee and that you personally apologize for his recent actions as interim chairman,” Roger Villere, chairman of the Louisiana Republican Party, said in a letter Friday.

Villere took issue with a fundraising email signed by McHale, which said Vitter and other Republicans had “ties” to the four conservative activists who were arrested this week for tampering with the phone system in Sen. Mary LandrieuMary Loretta LandrieuCongress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Dems wrestle over how to vote on ‘Green New Deal’ Lobbying world MORE’s (D-La.) New Orleans office.

“Did David Vitter, his staff or anyone [associated] with the Louisiana Republican Party have any communication with these four [political] operatives or did they have any advance knowledge of their actions?” McHale said in the email.

“These claims are both completely false and completely unsupported by any facts or evidence whatsoever," said Villere. "Therefore, to make such a public claim is irresponsible, malicious, and a disservice to the voters of our state.”

A spokesman for the Louisiana Democrats said they haven’t made any accusations against Vitter, simply asked a question.

“The fact that David Vitter will not answer that question tells you all you need to know,” said Kevin Franck, a party spokesman.

Meanwhile, Landrieu she said was “proud” of the GOP response to the incident at her office.

"I'm very proud of the Republican senators, so far, [they] have been appropriately constrained," Landrieu told The Hill this week. “Senator Vitter called for a full investigation, which I thought was a very appropriate response.”