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Biography

Elected: 2004, term expires 2016, 2nd term.

Born: May 3, 1961, New Orleans, LA

Home: Metairie, LA

Education: Harvard U., A.B. 1983, Rhodes Scholar, Oxford U., B.A. 1985, Tulane Law Schl., J.D. 1988

Professional Career: Practicing atty., 1988-99; Adjunct law prof., Tulane U. & Loyola U., 1995-98.

Ethnicity: White/Caucasian

Religion: Roman Catholic

Family: Married (Wendy Baldwin) , 4 children (twins)

Republican David Vitter, elected in 2004 and now Louisiana’s senior senator, is a confrontational conservative with an appetite for hardball tactics, such as holding up presidential appointments and forcing floor votes on bills. His disdain for President Barack Obama has made him popular among Louisiana voters, who have forgiven him for a 2007 prostitution scandal, and in June 2014 he announced that he would run for governor in 2015.

Vitter grew up in the New Orleans area, the son of a Chevron petroleum engineer. He graduated from Harvard University and Tulane University’s law school and was a Rhodes Scholar. He was a business attorney and taught law at Tulane and Loyola. In 1991, Vitter was elected to the state House from the district that had been represented by former Ku Klux Klansman David Duke.Therehe passed a term-limits bill through a reluctant state legislature and was noted for his ability to irritate other politicians. Many of them held grudges because of his crusade for term limits; others were put off by his crusades for ethics in government. Vitter led the effort to recall Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards, who ultimately went to prison for racketeering. A popular sheriff sued Vitter three times after Vitter criticized his ethics.

Vitter ran for Congress and won in a May 1999 special election to replace Republican Rep. Bob Livingston, the speaker-designate who announced in late 1998 that he would resign after confessing that he had had extramarital affairs. Several Republicans jumped into the race, including Duke. The establishment choice was David Treen, 70, who had served four terms in the House starting in 1972 and had been elected governor in 1979. Vitter argued, in effect, that Treen was too old, saying, “We need a younger congressman like me, so we can start building up the seniority we lost when Bob Livingston resigned.” The top two vote-getters in the initial balloting were Treen, with 25%, and Vitter, with 22%. The two advanced to the runoff under the system then in use. Duke, unnervingly close to making the runoff, finished third with 19%, which came as a relief to many Republicans who thought his KKK past would hurt the party. Vitter went on to win the runoff, 51%-49%.

Vitter had one of the most conservative voting records in the House and the most conservative in the Louisiana delegation. He twice won reelection in his heavily Republican, suburban New Orleans district with at least 80% of the vote.

In December 2003, Democratic Sen. John Breaux announced that he would not seek a fourth term, and two days later, Vitter jumped into the contest. Wooden in manner, a self-described loner, and highly conservative, Vitter was the stylistic opposite of Breaux, a gregarious dealmaker and respected centrist from Cajun country who had been a major force for reform of federal entitlements and health care. But the state party and national Republicans worked hard to clear the field for Vitter, viewing him as the strongest candidate, thanks to his suburban political base and his habit of traveling the state to announce projects secured from his perch on the House Appropriations Committee. He was also familiar in Cajun country after his well-publicized opposition to an Indian casino in southwestern Louisiana.

On the Democratic side, three serious candidates joined the race: U.S. Rep. Chris John; two-term state Treasurer John Kennedy; and state Rep. Arthur Morrell, an African-American from New Orleans. There was little doubt that Vitter would win the state’s unique Election Day primary against a divided Democratic field; the real issue for Democrats was holding him below the 50%-plus-one threshold necessary to avoid a December runoff.

Vitter ran as a strong supporter of President George W. Bush and called for making Bush’s tax cuts permanent, new job creation, and medical malpractice lawsuit restrictions. He opposed abortion rights, same-sex marriage, and gun-ownership restrictions. He said he best represented “mainstream Louisiana values” and painted John as an out-of-touch Washington liberal who was close to John Kerry, the 2004 Democratic presidential nominee. John, the Democratic front-runner who had Breaux’s endorsement, responded by referring to Vitter as a Republican Party puppet and strove to distance himself from Kerry’s presidential campaign—a wise move in a state that Bush wound up carrying with 57% that November.

Sugar was an important issue. Louisiana is the prime cane sugar-producing state, and producers worry about being undercut by cheap imports. Vitter broke with the Bush administration over the Central American Free Trade Agreement, opposing it because it did not exempt sugar imports from the deal. Vitter ran some of the most creative television ads of the election cycle, making light of his image as a stiff politician with humorous commercials featuring his daughter’s home movies. Meanwhile, John failed to gain momentum and was caught in the crossfire between Vitter on the right and Kennedy and Morrell on the left.

With Vitter leading in the polls going into November, the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spent more than $1.5 million in ads criticizing his positions on prescription drug reimportation and Social Security. It wasn’t enough. Vitter won the race outright with 51%, becoming the first Republican in 121 years to represent Louisiana in the Senate. John was the leading Democratic vote-getter, with 29%, to 15% for Kennedy and 3% for Morrell. Bush’s strong performance helped Vitter, but he ran well on his own, winning Mississippi River parishes that Bush lost, carrying nearly all of Louisiana north of Baton Rouge, and posting large margins in the New Orleans suburbs. In populous St. Tammany Parish, which he had represented in Congress, Vitter won by more than 5-to-1. His 60,000-vote margin there was more than enough to erase John’s 25,000-vote advantage in New Orleans.

In the Senate, Vitter has been one of the chamber’s most right-leaning members. He told a local audience in October 2012 that a “major base” of the Democratic Party believes mineral extraction is “evil. ... That’s the bottom line.” Vitter also has not made many friends across the aisle. He called Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid “an idiot” in January 2013 for saying that Hurricane Sandy, which hit the East Coast, was worse than Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Gulf Coast. Vitter cast one of the two votes against confirming New York Democrat Hillary Clinton as secretary of State, although her qualifications for the job were not an issue.

Before his Democratic Louisiana colleague Mary Landrieu lost her re-election bid in 2014, she and Vitter made little secret of their contempt for each other, although they grudgingly worked together on state-specific matters. Vitter’s enmity hasn’t been exclusively confined to Democrats. He has been at odds with Louisiana GOP Gov. Bobby Jindal, a political star in the party, on state budget issues and other matters, so much so that The Times-Picayune of New Orleans described Vitter in 2012 as “acting like a shadow state party leader.” (Vitter has long feuded with the newspaper, but journalists cheered him that year when he fired off an angry letter to its owner, Advance Publications, after Advance announced it was ending seven-day-a-week print publication. He implored the company to sell the paper instead.)

Vitter became chairman of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Committee in 2015. He was expected to use the post as a platform to criticize the Obama administration on issues of interest back in Louisiana. "We will make important efforts to grow our energy industry, get rid of the government impediments to growth, reduce the tax burden on small businesses, and of course, repeal and replace Obamacare,” he said in a statement. But it was likely that he could still strike deals on some lesser areas, given the inclinations of the committee's new ranking Democrat, Ben Cardin of Maryland.

Before getting that chairmanship, Vitter had been the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee. He expressed hope that he could reach agreement with Democratic Chairman Barbara Boxer of California—who is as liberal as he is conservative—on passing the first reauthorization of the Water Resources Development Act since 2007. It took the pair more than a year, but in June 2014, Obama signed the $12.3 billion measure into law. It authorized seven coastal restoration projects in Louisiana while streamlining the review process for some Army Corps of Engineers projects. Vitter also was active on the original legislation, which authorized nearly $2 billion for Louisiana coastal restoration and $886 million for a 72-mile system of levees and floodwalls for two low-lying parishes. At the time, he got 22 Republican senators to sign a letter urging President George W. Bush to abandon his threat to veto the bill. Bush refused, but his veto was ultimately overridden by Congress.

Another priority for Vitter was a reform of the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act to give the chemical industry greater assurance that new regulations wouldn’t pose a threat to its bottom line. He cosponsored a bill with the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg, D-N.J., that picked up support from more than 20 other lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, but it did not move. In another odd-couple pairing, he and liberal Democrat Sherrod Brown of Ohio worked on a measure to make banks considered "too big to fail" set aside more capital reserves.

But such bipartisan work didn't erase Vitter's partisan tendencies. When the Affordable Care Act was being implemented in September 2013, he demanded a vote for his proposal to repeal federal dollars that could pay for lawmakers’ and their aides’  coverage under the law. Angry Democrats reportedly discussed a plan that would deny lawmakers those contributions if there was "probable cause" that they had solicited prostitutes -- a direct slap at Vitter. The senator responded by filing ethics complaints against Boxer, Reid and others.

Vitter is known for holding up Obama’s nominees and trying to prevent them from using their full powers once in office. Seeking a vote in 2012 on an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, he blocked two nominees to the Federal Reserve Board before reaching an agreement with Reid. He attached an amendment to a September 2009 Interior appropriations bill that would have blocked funds for any policy initiated by Carol Browner, the White House climate change and energy adviser; his amendment was defeated. On the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee, Vitter opposed Ben Bernanke’s second term as Federal Reserve chairman in early 2010, complaining that the Fed had doled out trillions of dollars and “worsened our economic crisis by making ‘too big to fail’ a permanent government policy.” He formed an unlikely alliance with socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., in placing a hold on Bernanke’s nomination, and Vitter ultimately voted against confirmation.

Some of his legislative guerrilla tactics have enjoyed more success. When Obama sought to raise Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s pay to the same level as other Cabinet secretaries in 2011, Vitter vowed in a news release to keep his “boot on the neck” of the Interior Department until it approved more drilling permits. Salazar eventually asked that the legislation be withdrawn. The Senate Ethics Committee, chaired by Boxer, looked into the matter but took no action because no existing rule dealt with the issue. But the committee said in a 2012 letter, “It is inappropriate to condition support for a secretary’s personal salary increase directly on his or her performance of a specific official act.”

Vitter is particularly interested in law-and-order issues. In February 2010, he cosponsored with Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., a bill giving administrative subpoena authority to the Marshals Service, the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Postal Inspection Service in cases of child exploitation. He also sponsored a bill to require the states to collect DNA samples from convicted felons. Vitter’s 2007 amendment to bar funding of organizations advocating international gun control policies passed 81-10.

The deadly April 2010 explosion of the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana sparked outrage from fisherman and residents throughout the Bayou State. BP became the focus of considerable public criticism. Vitter’s campaigns had received more than $450,000 from the oil and gas industry in the preceding five years, putting him in a tough position politically. After the administration announced a six-month moratorium on deep-water drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Vitter wrote to Obama warning that the moratorium would result in the loss of 20,000 jobs in the state. He advocated that drilling operations be shut down only if specific safety problems were identified during rig inspections, and he opposed Democratic efforts to eliminate the cap on liability for oil companies after a spill.

Vitter’s political career was dealt a major blow in July 2007, when it was revealed that between 1999 and 2001 his phone number had appeared on the call list of “D.C. Madam” Deborah Jeane Palfrey. A week later, he appeared with his wife, Wendy, at his side and issued a public apology, saying he had committed “a very serious sin.” The same year, the Senate Ethics Committee debated whether to punish Vitter but ruled that the conduct in question had occurred before he got to the Senate. Vitter tried to use his campaign funds to pay $160,000 in legal fees in the case, but the Federal Election Commission would not permit it. In another round of negative publicity, in March 2009, the Transportation Security Administration looked into an incident in which Vitter allegedly opened a security gate to try to board a flight at Dulles Airport after the flight had been boarded and the doors locked. The attempt set off alarms. Vitter later claimed he had mistakenly gone through the wrong door at the gate, and the TSA ruled that he had not posed a security threat.

Trouble for Vitter continued with an ABC News report in 2010 that a longtime Vitter aide had had repeated brushes with the law, including a knife-wielding incident with an ex-girlfriend. The staff member was kept on board two years after the episode, during which he worked on women’s issues for the senator. The aide resigned in late June. Then, the Federal Election Commission fined a Louisiana businessman $170,000 in 2012 for using corporate funds to funnel illegal contributions to the campaigns of both Vitter and Landrieu. A year earlier, the FEC deadlocked 3-3 along partisan lines over whether a California dry cleaning corporation made illegal campaign contributions to Vitter’s 2010 re-election campaign.

Considering the well-publicized scandals, Vitter did remarkably well in his bid for a second term in 2010. He won reelection 57% to 38% over Democratic Rep. Charlie Melancon. In anticipation of a tough contest and a rehash of the prostitution story, Vitter raised $12.6 million to Melancon’s $4 million. Indeed, Melancon made an issue of Vitter’s “sin,” but in running a predominately anti-Vitter campaign, he failed to define himself, Louisiana political analysts said. Vitter did that for him by portraying Melancon as an Obama administration yes-man, slamming him for his vote for the president’s $787 billion economic stimulus bill. To counter the attacks about his use of prostitutes, Vitter ran a negative ad critical of overseas trips Melancon took at taxpayers’ expense, including one to Paris with his wife, which Melancon called a fact-finding mission to learn about the energy policies of U.S. NATO allies. But Vitter also came under fire for an ad that depicted illegal Mexican immigrants sneaking through a fence. The Hispanic Chamber of Commerce denounced the ad as racist. Vitter accused his critics of “ridiculous political correctness,” saying the ad revealed “a fact and not a stereotype.”

The governorship is an especially powerful post in Louisiana, and an October 2012 poll found that Vitter was the top choice among those surveyed to succeed Jindal in 2015. Though he faced the likelihood of a crowded primary field, experts said he had to be considered the frontrunner. “It’s his to lose, given the advantages he has,” LSU political scientist Kirby Goidel told The Advocate of Baton Rouge. “He has a great campaign organization. He’s very disciplined. He’s on message." His message did hit something of a bump in December 2014 when he came out against the Common Core education standards that conservatives have vilified, four months after he had publicly backed them. Nevertheless, a poll that month showed him with 36% support, 10 percentage points ahead of his closest rival.

Office Contact Information

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 516
Washington, DC 20510-1805

MAIN OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

HSOB- Hart Senate Office Building Room 516
Washington, DC 20510-1805

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

2800 Veterans Memorial Boulevard Suite 201
Metairie, LA 70002

DISTRICT OFFICE

(504) 589-2753

(504) 589-2607

2800 Veterans Boulevard Suite 201
Metairie, LA 70002

DISTRICT OFFICE

(504) 779-3771

3841 Veterans Boulevard
Metairie, LA 70002

DISTRICT OFFICE

(225) 383-0331

(225) 383-0952

858 Convention Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802-5626

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

858 Convention Street
Baton Rouge, LA 70802-5626

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

2201 Kaliste Saloom Road Suite 201
Lafayette, LA 70508

DISTRICT OFFICE

(337) 993-9502

(337) 993-9567

2201 Kaliste Saloom Road Suite 201
Lafayette, LA 70508

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

Pierremont Office Park Suite 113
Shreveport, LA 71106-2079

DISTRICT OFFICE

(318) 861-0437

(318) 861-4865

Pierremont Office Park Suite 113
Shreveport, LA 71106-2079

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

Plaza 28 Suite 700-A
Alexandria, LA 71303

DISTRICT OFFICE

(318) 448-0169

(318) 448-0189

6501 Coliseum Boulevard Suite 700-A Plaza 28
Alexandria, LA 71303

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

1424 Ryan Street Suite A
Lake Charles, LA 70601-8780

DISTRICT OFFICE

(337) 436-0453

(337) 436-3163

1424 Ryan Street Suite A
Lake Charles, LA 70601-8780

DISTRICT OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

1651 Louisville Avenue Suite 148
Monroe, LA 71201-5435

DISTRICT OFFICE

(318) 325-8120

(318) 325-9165

1651 Louisville Avenue Suite 148
Monroe, LA 71201-5435

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

238 Helios Avenue
Metairie, LA 70005

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

238 Helios Avenue
Metairie, LA 70005

CAMPAIGN OFFICE

(202) 224-4623

(202) 228-5061

2900 Clearview Parkway Suite 206
Metairie, LA 70006

EXPORT CONTACTS » *

Staff

Sort by: Interest Name Title

Abortion

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Aerospace

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Agriculture

Dustin Davidson
Legislative Correspondent

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Appropriations

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Banking

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Budget

Chris Stanley
Legislative Director

Congress

Chris Stanley
Legislative Director

Economics

David Stokes
Senior Economic Advisor

Education

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Dustin Davidson
Legislative Correspondent

Energy

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Environment

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Finance

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Foreign

Josh Hodges
National Security Policy Advisor

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Dustin Davidson
Legislative Correspondent

Gun Issues

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Health

Arne Owens
Healthcare Policy Fellow

arne_owens@sbc.senate.gov
(202) 224-5175

Homeland Security

Josh Hodges
National Security Policy Advisor

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Housing

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Human Rights

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Insurance

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Intelligence

Josh Hodges
National Security Policy Advisor

Judiciary

Kate LaBorde
Legislative Assistant

Military

Josh Hodges
National Security Policy Advisor

National Security

Dustin Davidson
Legislative Correspondent

Rules

Chris Stanley
Legislative Director

Seniors

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Small Business

Dustin Davidson
Legislative Correspondent

Transportation

Josh Hodges
National Security Policy Advisor

Dustin Davidson
Legislative Correspondent

Veterans

Palmer Rafferty
Legislative Assistant

Election Results

2010 GENERAL
David Vitter
Votes: 715,415
Percent: 56.55%
Charlie Melancon
Votes: 476,572
Percent: 37.67%
2010 PRIMARY
David Vitter
Votes: 85,225
Percent: 87.59%
Chet Traylor
Votes: 6,841
Percent: 7.03%
Nick Accardo
Votes: 5,232
Percent: 5.38%
2004 GENERAL
David Vitter
Votes: 943,014
Percent: 51.0%
Chris John
Votes: 542,150
Percent: 20.0%
John Kennedy
Votes: 275,821
Percent: 15.0%
Prior Winning Percentages
2004 (51%); House: 2002 (81%), 2000 (80%), 1999 special (51%)

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