Vitter Gets A Serious Last Minute Primary Challenger

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There are no shortage of conservatives in Louisiana who’d like to retire David Vitter. But late this afternoon, one prominent Republican decided to make a go of it, entering the race at the last possible moment to take on the scandal-plagued senator in the GOP primary this August.

Meet Chet Traylor, a former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice well-connected in Louisiana Republican political and business circles circles, who surprised everyone this afternoon by qualifying at the witching hour to challenge Vitter.

Vitter has plenty of money in the bank and, with just weeks to go, time on his side. But Traylor could catch up quickly.Traylor was elected to the court on the strength of support from the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry, which suggests that Vitter might have lost the support of the business community (at least over the course of the next several weeks until the primary).

And, in the meantime, Traylor will make Vitter spend money he had planned to save, and nudge him off his anti-Obama message, or at least distract him from it. Traylor appeared Friday evening with Roy Fletcher, a high-powered GOP consultant whose work helped propel Mike Foster to victory in the 1995 gubernatorial race.

Traylor was the very conservative justice who once wrote in an opinion upholding a Louisiana sodomy law that “any claim that private sexual conduct between consenting adults is constitutionally insulated from state proscription is unsupportable,” so you can bet that he’ll blast the already conservative Vitter from the right, and draw blood over Vitter’s high-profile scandals.

Another fun wrinkle: Traylor’s a country lawyer, from rural north eastern Louisiana. By contrast, the Harvard-educated Vitter hails from New Orleans. Not an ideal contrast for Vitter in a Republican primary in a conservative state. Dems in Louisiana and DC are jazzed.

This is one to watch.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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