Rep. Charles Boustany (R)
Elected: 2004, 3rd term.
Born: Feb. 21, 1956, New Orleans .
Education: U. of SW LA, B.S. 1978, LA St. U., M.D. 1982.
Family: Married (Bridget); 2 children.
Professional Career: Practicing surgeon, 1982-2004.
The congressman from the 7th District is Charles Boustany, who in 2004 became the first Republican elected from this area since 1884. Of Lebanese ancestry, Boustany (Boo STON nee) grew up in Lafayette, where his father was parish coroner. He graduated from the University of Southwestern Louisiana and from Louisiana State University’s medical school. He worked as a cardio-thoracic surgeon and was active in civic and political affairs. In 2004, when Democrat Chris John ran for the Senate, Boustany was one of five candidates running to succeed him. The other Republican was David Thibodeaux of Lafayette, who had run unsuccessfully for the seat three times, most recently in 1996. But he raised little money, some party leaders viewed him as too conservative and Boustany quickly became the Republican favorite. The Democratic front-runners were two state senators: Don Cravins of the Breaux Bridge area, who was seeking to become the first African-American to hold this seat, and state Sen. Willie Mount of Lake Charles. Boustany raised plenty of money early and campaigned on his “prescription for prosperity”—expansion of health-savings accounts, high-speed Internet access for local small businesses and opposition to the Central American Free Trade Agreement. The National Republican Congressional Committee ran ads attacking Mount’s support for higher taxes in the Legislature, presumably because it saw Cravins as a weaker candidate in a runoff. Boustany led the November primary with 39% of the vote, to 25.2% for Mount, 24.6% for Cravins, and 10% for Thibodeaux. In the December runoff, Cravins refused to endorse Mount, still angry over the state Democratic Party’s “unity ballot” sent to black voters, which included Mount’s name and not his. Cravins’s neutrality hurt Mount in the Lafayette area. She pointed to her legislative experience, while Boustany emphasized his “values” agenda. Boustany won 55%-45%. Mount won 60% in Lake Charles’s Calcasieu Parish, which cast 32% of the vote. But Boustany trumped that with 70% in Lafayette Parish, which cast 30% of the vote.
|Charles Boustany (R)||177,173||(62%)||($1,606,461)|
|Donald Cravins (D)||98,280||(34%)||($623,426)|
|Peter Vidrine (I)||10,846||(4%)|
|Charles Boustany (R)||Unopposed|
Prior Winning Percentages: 2006 (71%), 2004 (55%)
In the House, Boustany’s voting record was relatively moderate for a Southern Republican. On the Education and the Workforce Committee, he was an active proponent of legislation to permit small businesses to join together in associations to pay less for health insurance. He also sought increased federal support for computerizing health records, which he said “remains trapped in the 20th century.” His local priorities included more federal funding to restore Louisiana’s eroding coastline and to complete Interstate 49 from Shreveport to Lafayette. After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, he enacted initiatives to provide special rules for disaster-relief employment for individuals displaced by the storms and to assist the disabled. He pledged that southwest Louisiana would not be “a stepchild” to New Orleans in hurricane recovery. He pushed for expedited assistance payments from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and criticized the slow cleanup of debris in Cameron Parish. In March 2006, when Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi led a delegation of House members to Katrina recovery sites, Boustany complained loudly that they overlooked his hard-hit district. In July of that year, Hastert returned to Boustany’s district.
In 2008, Boustany, with Rep. Bart Stupak, D-Mich., sponsored a bill to increase visas for seasonal workers, notably for the crawfish industry. In recent years, he’s also developed a close relationship with Minority Leader John Boehner, which helped him to fill the power vacuum following the departure of senior House Republicans from Louisiana. It also proved helpful to Boustany in early 2009, when he secured a seat on the powerful, tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee. On the panel, Boustany said he supports tax breaks as an incentive for people to use alternative fuels and more US oil drilling. In campaigning for the seat, Boustany distributed a packet to his colleagues grandly titled “The Next Conservative Leader for the Ways and Means Committee.”
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee tried to recruit Chris John to run for his old seat in 2006, but he declined. With John out of the running, Boustany had an easy win against Democrat Mike Stagg, 71%-29%. In 2008, when state Sen. Don Cravins Jr., the son of Boustany’s 2004 opponent, decided to challenge him, some Democrats were hopeful. But Cravins’s pro–gun ownership, anti–abortion rights stance discouraged national party support. And internal party resentment lingered from the 2004 contest. Boustany won 62%-34%, carrying each parish except for Evangeline, which he narrowly lost.