Two men who fought an ugly duel over Louisiana's First Congressional District seat have become the victims of their own political gunslinging.
Former Rep. Richard A. Tonry and his chief antagonist, former New Orleans City Councilman James A. Moreau, suffered overwhelming defeats Saturday in special primary races spawned by their dispute over the outcome of last year's Democratic primary runoff, which Tonry won by 184 votes.
Tonry who resigned from office May 4 because of vote-fraud allegations arising from the dispute, was defeated 52,023 to 40,121 in the special Democratic primary Saturday.
Moreau, who became a Republican after losing his Democratic backers in the fight to force Tonry's resignation, lost by 5,597 to 1,037 in the Republican contest.
The political downfall of both was widely attributed to the effect on the electorate of the adverse national and local publicity generated by their political squabble.
Even yesterday, after initially blaming Tonry's defeat on a low turnout among black voters, who heavily supported him in last year's race, an aide conceded that Tonry's defeat was due largely on the vott-raud scandal.
"It hurt us, that's true," she said. "But it wasn't fair. It really wasn't. The newspapers here New Orleans were just biased against Rick . . ."
She also noted that Tonry's cause was not helped by an 11-count federal indictment on campaign-finance-related charges. Tonry goes to trial on those charge July 5.
Neither Moreau nor his backes could be reached for comment. But his political opponents found some gallows humor in the events that led to his poor showing against Republican lawyer Robert L. Livingston, who lost to Tonry by a narrow margin in last November's general election.
Consider how the petroleum-rich and politically powerful Perez family of Plaquemines Parish (county) "used" and "dumped" Moreau, his political opponents said.
When the Perezes thought they had a chance of overturning Tonry's Democratic runoff victory before last year's general election, they supported Moreau. When it became obvious that wouldn't happen, they supported Livingston. When Livingston lost to Tonry in the general election they poured their resources into Moreau's battle to unseat Tonry on vote-fraud charges.
When Tonry resigned as a result of the allegations, the Perezes quietly stopped supporting Moreau, who then loudly resigned from the Democratic Party and became a Republican.
In the weekend balloting, the Perezes were supporting 26-year-old freshman state Rep. Ron Faucheux, who had supported Tonry in last year's race.
The Perezes are the heirs of the late Judge Leander Perez. Political observers in Louisiana's First District - which encompases a four-parish area that includes part of New Orleans - say the Perezes are as conservative as the judge was.
Moreau's opponents wonder aloud how the conservative Perezes could have dropped a staunchly conservative candidate such as Moreau in favor of a bright, young man, who is seen in some quarters as being a "progressive-liberal."
Said one Faucheux intimate about the young candidate's "progressive-liberal" credentials: "He's concerned about all the right things - pollution control, rights for women and minorities, sunshine laws, zero-base budgeting . . . He has high good government ratings."
At any rate, Tonry and Moreau are out - largely the result of their own doing, according to the general Political wisdom in the district. And the voters now must choose between Faucheux and Livingston, the latter a self-described "fiscal conservative" who believes he will become the first Republican congressman from Louisiana's First District in 103 years.