Candidates, start your mudslinging…

The countdown to the Aug. 28 primaries is officially under way.

For readers who are new to the area, this is the time of year when we’re left wondering, if a tree falls in the woods how many e-mails are you likely to receive blaming the other side for either illegally chopping it down or having had the idea to topple the tree years earlier.

For those keeping score at home, Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter and Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon are promising the “most watched” political slug fest.

Melancon started things off last week with a TV ad revisiting Vitter’s 2007 escapade with a Washington, D.C., madam and topped with a mention of the senator’s knife-wielding staffer’s altercation with a woman. The ad’s closing message: Vitter is not the “family values” guy voters put into office in 1999. According to Melancon, the senator voted against equal pay for women and protections for women raped on the job.

After a broadcast e-mail asking for cash – any denomination – for response ads, the Vitter political machine responded. In kind, he’s arguing that Melancon is a tool for the Obama Administration, voting in favor of a 2008 Wall Street bailout vote, to provide benefits to illegal immigrants and, last but not least, driving a luxury Chevy Tahoe on taxpayer’s dime.

Expect a fleet of messages from both men in your e-mail box clarifying what they really did – or didn’t – do. The gloves are off and both men have played the political game long enough to know how to land solid punches.

In the meantime, the two candidates – both of whom are vying for their party’s nomination – are looking to stay alive one more week, buying a spot on the Oct. 2 runoff ballot.

Vitter’s got to beat out former Louisiana Supreme Court Justice Chet Traylor, who comes with personal baggage of his own, and Franklin orthopedic surgeon Nick Accardo.

Melancon’s opponents, Cary Deaton and Neeson Chauvin Jr., have hardly mustered any press. It’s Vitter Melancon’s worried about.

And don’t forget about the race for Melancon’s soon-to-be-vacant seat.

That one pits former state Speaker of the House and Ret. Maj. Gen. Hunt Downer against New Iberia attorney Jeff Landry and oilfield manager Kristian Magar.

Landry emerged the financial leader among the three Republicans, although Downer has attracted a significant haul since entering the race.

The 3rd District opponents have been duking it out daily via the World Wide Web. For all their differences, there are many similarities, which will force voters to do their homework before going into voting booths across the Tri-parishes. All three favor an end to the moratorium, look to trim government overspending and are committed to coastal restoration. The days leading to the Aug. 28 primary will see the trio stumping for votes. Given the region’s Republican bent of late, Downer, Landry and Magar should have no problem finding an attentive audience.

So, over the next week, expect a lot of mud and a lot of charges – some true, some possibly slightly exaggerated or askew. Either way, buried in the political mud, is the candidate of choice. Our job is to dig through the slop and find him.

– Shell Armstrong, Managing Editor