Earlier I mentioned speculation that an anti-cockfighting ad campaign by Humane Society of the United States’ political action committee may have helped Republican David Vitter become the first Republican senator from that state since Reconstruction. The Associated Press ran a story this week looking at the extent of HSUS’ campaign and what, if any, effect it had.
HSUS targeted Democratic U.S. House Rep. Chris John, who is pro-cockfighting. Louisiana has an odd election system which typically leads to two viable Democrats running against a single Republican. If no single candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, which frequently happens, there is a run-off between the top two vote getters. The upshot is that the Democrats had never lost using this system until this year (and are now talking about ditching this bizarre process).
According to the Associated Press, HSUS’ PAC spent $250,000 targeting John, including mailing 300,000 pieces of mail to white female voters that quoted John saying, “I strongly support the cockfighting industry in Louisiana.” The PAC also paid for a television ad which told viewers that John considers cockfighting to be a “family-type thing.”
Was that the ultimate determinant? The Associated Press notes that John was such a weak candidate that he actually lost his home parish of Acadia by 10,000 votes to Vitter. Not to mention that Vitter did a good job of portraying the conservative, cock-fighting supporter John as a liberal in a state that George W. Bush won by 15 points.
The Associated Press quotes HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle as saying,
Cockfighting wasn’t the most important issue, but it was a measure of personal character. Polls show that people really want to be proud of Louisiana, and to have someone who advocates cockfighting is someone who’s going to reinforce perceptions that Louisiana is backward.
. . .
There was a political judgment made — Chris John made it — that there’s this group of voters out there that thinks cockfighting is fine, and that the right political stance is, cockfighting is fine. This election demonstrated that that’s the wrong political position.
Personally, I think Vitter’s election shows just how Republican the South is becoming, but seeing a supporter of cockfighting lose out in the process certainly doesn’t hurt.
Animal rights group claims victory in Louisiana’s Senate race. Doug Simpson, Associated Press, November 21, 2004.