Voters Pick Livingston Successor
May. 02, 1999
NEW ORLEANS (AP) _ Suburban voters chose a successor to Rep. Bob Livingston on Saturday in an election that could seal the political future of former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.
Former Gov. Dave Treen and state Rep. David Vitter jumped to an early lead. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was in third place in what may be his final political campaign.
With 19 of 486 precincts reporting, Treen led with 1,214 votes, or 23 percent, followed by Vitter with 981 votes for 19 percent. Duke had 961 votes, or 19 percent.
Candidates Monica Monica, an ophthalmologist, had 887 votes, or 17 percent; state Rep. Bill strain had 785, or 15 percent; and businessman Rob Couhig had 294, or 6 percent. Three other candidates had the remainder.
Livingston was in line to become House Speaker after more than 20 years in Congress. But he abruptly announced his resignation in December after confessing to marital infidelities.
He recently endorsed Treen, a 70-year-old former Republican governor and himself a veteran of 7 1/2 years in Congress.
But some Republicans feared Duke would return to haunt the party. The ex-KKK leader enjoyed a surprising, if brief, run of political success 10 years ago after joining the GOP.
When Livingston announced his resignation in December, Duke was hawking a new autobiography touting his theories that blacks have genetically low intelligence and raising the idea of a separate black homeland.
He announced his candidacy the same day and said later this would be his last political race unless he won.
Nine candidates _ seven Republicans and two Democrats _ ran on one ballot under Louisiana's unique open primary system.
Polls indicated Treen would likely finish on top but would fall short of the majority needed for outright victory. A runoff is scheduled May 29 if needed.
Strain, an 18-year veteran of the state House, was considered the Democrats' only hope of taking the seat, but he kept a relatively low profile throughout the campaign and his poll numbers were low.
The other candidates were political unknowns: Republicans Patrick Landry and S.J. LoCoco, and Democrat Darryl Ward.
The 1st District in the New Orleans suburbs is 85 percent white and predominantly Republican.
Treen gained momentum last week when House Speaker Dennis Hastert said he would receive seniority credit for the 7 1/2 years he spent in Congress before being elected governor in 1979.
Duke narrowly won a spot in the state House from the suburb of Metairie in 1989. He went on to shock the nation by winning a spot in the 1991 runoff for governor.
After former Gov. Edwin Edwards beat him in a landslide that year, his political fortunes faded, marked by a weak run for president, an abandoned second try for governor in 1995 and a fourth-place finish in the 1996 U.S. Senate race.
Despite his early start, his candidacy this time out was quickly overshadowed and largely ignored by the other candidates. Polls showed him with less than 10 percent support.
Still, the election was seen as a test of his oft-repeated theory that he ``flies below radar,'' meaning his supporters rarely admit their preferences for him in polls.