David Vitter was born in New Orleans and currently resides in Metairie, La. He earned a bachelor's degree from Harvard University, a bachelor's degree from Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar and a law degree from Tulane University Law School.
He practiced law and was elected to the Louisiana House in 1991.
He won a special election in 1999 to fill the seat of resigning U.S. Rep. Bob Livingston. He won his first full term to the seat in 2000 and was re-elected in 2002.
He was elected to the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Democrat John Breaux in 2004.
He and his wife, Wendy, have four children.
David Vitter is a wonkish Republican Rhodes scholar who built a reputation as a confrontational conservative reformer and champion of moral values. But he kept an unusually low profile for months after news broke in July 2007 that linked him to a Washington escort service operated by Deborah Palfrey. But, while his national prominence diminished, he bounced back strongly in Louisiana as he fiercely criticized Bush-era bailout bills and firmly established himself as a major critic of President Barack Obama. In addition to blasting Obama policies, Vitter said in July 2010, in answer to a question at a town hall-style event in Metairie, La., that he supports conservative organizations challenging Obama's citizenship in court, although he cautioned that the matter could distract from policy issues.
He opposed the economic stimulus package in February 2009 and the health care bill that passed in March 2010. The huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico following the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig gave him more opportunities to blast the administration for a deepwater drilling moratorium that endangered Gulf Coast jobs.
Vitter was elected to his first Senate term in 2004. He replaced the retiring John Breaux, a popular, moderate-to-conservative wheeler-dealer Democrat who retired after three terms. The state's first Republican senator since Reconstruction, Vitter had taken a prominent role in Rudolph Giuliani's presidential campaign. Then came news that his phone number appeared among the records of Palfrey's business. Vitter issued a statement saying he was guilty of a "serious sin" but steadfastly refused to answer questions. Subsequent allegations by New Orleans prostitutes that he had been a customer of theirs were tersely denied by Vitter.
Palfrey was convicted in 2008 of running a prostitution ring. She later committed suicide. Vitter was never called to testify in the Palfrey case and the Senate Ethics Committee declined to investigate, noting that the conduct predated his time in the Senate and didn't result in criminal charges.
Vitter maintained strong backing from state GOP leaders and easily won his party's August 2010 primary. His chief opponent on the November 2010 ballot is moderate Democratic U.S. Rep. Charlie Melancon of Napoleonville — portrayed by Vitter as a liberal "rubber stamp" vote for Obama. Melancon's campaign featured attacks on Vitter for the Palfrey matter as well as for Vitter's decision to keep an aide who dealt with women's issues on his staff for more than two years after the aide was arrested in a violent altercation with a former girlfriend in 2008.
The questions going into the November 2010 election are whether Melancon's attacks would make a dent in Vitter's support and whether any of the 10 other independent or minor party candidates — underfunded and with little or no statewide name recognition — might draw significant votes away from Vitter.
Vitter first made his mark in Louisiana politics as a young state representative, grabbing headlines and irritating colleagues by firing off ethics complaints, opposing gambling and pay raises, and setting himself up as the champion of good government.
Voters in the affluent suburbs of New Orleans sent Vitter to Congress in 1999 to replace the disgraced Bob Livingston — who stepped down over extra-marital scandals.
Committee Assignments: Commerce, Science, and Transportation; Environment and Public Works; Small Business and Entrepreneurship; Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs; Armed Services
American Conservative Union Rating: 100
Americans for Democratic Action Rating: 5
Recent winning percentages for office currently held: 57% (2010).
(Last updated by Kevin McGill on November 3, 2010.)