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Inside Politics

Vitter fights Dems, history

U.S. Senate race in Louisiana

Republican David Vitter had a slight lead in the polls just prior to the election.
Senate: LA Updated: 5:33 p.m. ET
Vitter 51%
John 29%
100% precincts reporting
Election Results Main Page

(CNN) -- For the first time since Reconstruction, Louisiana voters have elected a Republican senator, according to CNN projections.

CNN projects Republican Rep. David Vitter will become the newest senator in Louisiana by defeating Democratic challengers, Rep. Chris John and state Treasurer John Kennedy.

Vitter takes the seat occupied by Democrat John Breaux, who did not seek re-election.

A week before Election Day, Vitter held an edge in a majority of polls over other challengers.

But while the numbers looked promising for Vitter, history was not on his side, as Louisiana had not elected a Republican to the Senate since Reconstruction.

Vitter, 43, a Rhodes Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Tulane Law School, taught at Tulane while serving eight years (1991-99) in the state House and then moved on to Congress. Two days after Breaux announced his retirement in December, Vitter, a conservative representative from the New Orleans suburbs, jumped into the Senate race, promoting a platform of political reform, job creation, education and increased access to state health care, which he named "Fighting for Our Future."

In Congress, Vitter promoted President Bush's tax cuts, seeking to make them permanent, but differed from the White House when it came to immigration and the Central America Free Trade Agreement, because it did not exempt sugar imports.

Democratic challenger John, 44, started working in public service when he was 23 years old and elected to the Crowley City Counsel in 1983. In 1987, he was elected to the state House and in 1996 to a seat representing the seventh congressional district, the same one Breaux once held. Congressional Quarterly reported that John voted with Bush 70 percent of the time, including for President Bush's tax cut, for the ban on partial-birth abortions, for barring gays in the Boy Scouts and for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. In May, his campaign got a boost when he received the support of Breaux and labeled himself "the John Breaux candidate in the race."

Despite his centrist record, Republicans tried to portray John as a "Washington liberal."

Kennedy, 52, a fiscal moderate with a law degree from the University of Virginia and an advanced degree from Oxford, served as state Secretary of the Treasury and was special counsel to former Gov. Buddy Roemer.

Morrell, 60, a three-year veteran of U.S. Army Special Forces, received his undergraduate degree and law degree from Southern University before being elected to the state legislature in 1983. He brought credentials as a former chairman of the state's Legislative Black Caucus and a member of the Louisiana Trial Lawyers Association to the Senate race.

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