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Baker departure would create more congressional chaos

From the sounds of it, the dean of Louisiana’s congressional delegation may not be in office much longer (you don’t volunteer that you may resign office early to take a new job without being serious about it, and even if you don’t come to terms with that position it sure sounds like you’re willing to field others). With the almost-certain departure of Rep. Richard Baker, more chaos infiltrates the Louisiana political scene.

With the resignation of Rep. Bobby Jindal to become governor, retirement of Rep. Jim McCrery, looming departure willing or otherwise of indicated Rep. William Jefferson, and sketchy reelection chances of Sen. Mary Landrieu, Baker’s departure would finish a wholesale revolution in national elective posts in the state. After the 2006 elections, the state’s delegation had about seven-eights of a century of service. By the beginning of 2009, it could be reduced by 75 percent. To put it into perspective, the new dean of the delegation, Rep. Rodney Alexander, at six years of service may constitute two-sevenths of the total amount of experience of the state’s congressional figures.

Such losses of seniority could reduce the amount of capital appropriations courtesy of the federal government coming to the state, and should become a campaign tool for Landrieu, in office for 11 years now. Expect her to remind voters that her defeat would cause the loss of seniority of the (at present, but maybe not given 2008 presidential contest dynamics) majority party for the state; whether that would prove convincing in any significant way is another matter.

As in the case of the 4th District of McCrery which has very similar demographics, the 6th favors a Republican although a certain Democrat candidate with good fortune could win the spot. In the Sixth, that person could be state Rep. Don Cazayoux who has a centrist voting record. But just like with the Fourth, any chance that Democrats might have to take the seat might go up in flames from intra-party strife – and it is more likely to happen here.

This is because the Sixth features a politician who has tasted a Congressional seat before, has run statewide well enough to get into a runoff for governor, and will be forced out of his state legislative office in about a week – state Sen. Cleo Fields. Having been in political office most of his adult life, Fields is itching to return to his biggest stage and would be at worst even money to win the Democrat nomination under the new closed primary system. The only thing holding him back is knowledge that the odds would be heavily against him in the general election regardless of the GOP opponent.

But you can’t win if you don’t play, and, even if he didn’t, Fields might want to show Baton Rouge-area Democrats he’s still the boss even if not in office by winning the nomination. Former Baker aide Paul Sawyer says he will run on the Republican side if the congressman leaves, but one can be sure others will take a stab on both sides of the aisle for a rare chance at an open seat.

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