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U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu loses re-election bid in Louisiana

Former Governor Edwin Edwards’s comeback bid also falls short

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu has failed in her bid for a fourth term, losing to GOP U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy in Louisiana’s December 6 runoff.

Cassidy took 56 percent of the vote to 44 percent for Landrieu. Her defeat means that Republicans have taken away four Southern Senate seats this year, en route to winning a 54-46 majority.

Meanwhile, former Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards, who served eight years in federal prison on corruption charges, failed in his bid to make a political comeback, losing a runoff for the state’s 6th District U.S. House seat.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

Speaking to supporters at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Baton Rouge, Cassidy, 57, called the runoff result the “exclamation point” on the message voters sent to Washington in November.

“This victory happened because people in Louisiana voted for a government which serves us but does not tell us what to do,” he said. “We want our country to go in a conservative direction.”

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Speaking to supporters at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans, Landrieu, 59, who has been on the state’s political stage since 1979, thanked them for helping her fight “for the right things for Louisiana.”

“The people of our state have spoken, and while we were working and hoping and praying for a different outcome, I’m so proud that our campaign was open and accessible to voters,” she said.

Landrieu also defended her vote in favor of Obamacare, a central criticism of Cassidy’s campaign, saying it has given people security in knowing that they will have access to health care.

“This is something to be proud of, and I’m glad we fought for it,” she said.

Landrieu narrowly won the state’s “jungle” primary in November. But in the month since, polls consistently showed the Republican vote coalescing around Cassidy, a doctor who represents the Baton Rouge area in the U.S. House.

Another factor dragging down Landrieu’s fortunes was President Barack Obama’s anemic approval ratings in Pelican State, which are below 40 percent and more than 20 points under water.

The Landrieu family has been prominent in Louisiana Democratic politics since the 1960s. Mary Landrieu’s father, Moon, was mayor of New Orleans, a position her brother, Mitch, currently holds.

Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards

Former Louisiana Governor Edwin Edwards

In the 6th District, Edwards was beaten badly by Republican Garret Graves, the former chairman of the state’s coastal protection authority, mustering just 38 percent to Graves’s 62 percent.

Edwards, 87, finished first in the “jungle” primary with 30 percent of the vote in a crowded field that included two fellow Democrats and eight Republicans. But the district, which takes in much of the southeastern part of the state including most of Baton Rouge, is strongly Republican, which made Graves a prohibitive favorite.

Still, even getting into the runoff was a political triumph for the colorful octogenarian, who starred in a television reality show in 2013 with his third wife, Trina, who is 51 years his junior.

Edwards served a record four terms as Louisiana’s governor between 1972 and 1996. In 1991, after being acquitted of federal corruption charges, he won a runoff against white supremacist David Duke. During that campaign, a popular bumper sticker urged Louisianians to “Vote For the Crook. It’s Important.”

In 2001, Edwards was convicted on 17 counts of bribery, extortion, fraud and racketeering stemming from his last terms as governor. He served eight years in prison.

As a convicted felon, Edwards is barred from seeking state office. But there is no prohibition on convicted felons seeking federal office.

Four southern U.S. Senate races are still too close to call

GOP holding leads in Arkansas and West Virginia; Democrats holding tough in Georgia and Kentucky

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

southern-states-lgWASHINGTON (CFP) — Two weeks out from election day, races for four southern U.S. Senate seats — two held by each party — are still too close to call, with control of the Senate hanging in the balance.

The latest polling shows races in North Carolina, Kentucky and Georgia are within the margin of error, while the race in Louisiana now seems certain to be heading toward a December runoff.

Depending on how these Southern races turn out, the question of which party will control the Senate could linger for more than a month before runoffs in Louisiana and possibly Georgia.

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton

However, Republicans appear poised to pick up an open Democratic seat in West Virginia, and GOP U.S. Rep. Tom Cotton appears to have opened up a small lead over incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mark Pryor in Arkansas.

Democrats hold only eight out of 28 southern Senate seats. One of those seats, in West Virginia, is likely gone, and three others — in Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy.

The good news for Democrats is that two GOP-held seats, in Kentucky and Georgia, have turned out to be surprisingly competitive, despite the Republican tilt in both of those states.

Here are the current states of the southern Senate races:

Arkansas: The race between Cotton and Pryor has been neck-and-neck for the better part of a year, as outside groups poured tons of money into the Natural
State. But a Talk Business and Politics/Hendrix College poll released October 15 showed that Cotton has opened up an 8-point lead, the third media poll in a row that put the challenger ahead.

Louisiana: Recent polling shows Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her chief Republican rival, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, about even but both far from the 50 percent either would need to avoid a runoff in the state’s jungle primary, where all candidates from all parties run in the same race. That would set up a December 6 runoff between the two, a head-to-head match-up that’s still too close to call.

West Virginia: This race is to pick a successor to retiring Democratic U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller, and it looks increasingly like a GOP pickup, with U.S. Rep. Shelley Moore Capito opening up a significant lead over Democratic Secretary of State Natalie Tennant. A CBS News/New York Times/YouGov poll in early October had Capito ahead by 23 points.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell

Kentucky: The Senate’s top Republican, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, is in a pitched battle with Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes. Recent polls have shown the race as either too close to call or with McConnell slightly in the lead.

Georgia: This race, to pick a successor to retiring Republican U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss, is a contest between two political newcomers, Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn. Despite Georgia’ GOP tilt, Nunn has run a strong race, and the latest polling shows the contest within the margin of error. An interesting twist in Georgia is that if neither Perdue nor Nunn wins a majority, they would meet in a runoff December 10 — a possibility if the race is close and votes are syphoned off by third-party candidates.

North Carolina: Democratic U.S. Senator Kay Hagan is seeking a second term against Republican State House Speaker Thom Tillis. Recent polling has shown this race is also within the margin of error.

Poll: Louisiana U.S. Senate race heading for a runoff

Control of the Senate could be in limbo until December if a runoff is needed to settle the race

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — The U.S. Senate race in Louisiana appears headed for a runoff that’s still to close to call, which could leave the balance of power in the Senate up in the air until December, according to a new poll.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

The CNN/ORC International poll released September 28 shows incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu at 43 percent among likely voters, ahead of GOP U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy at 40 percent and Rob Maness, a Republican with Tea Party backing, at 9 percent.

In Louisiana, all candidates, regardless of party, run in the November “jungle” primary. If no one reaches a majority, the top two vote getters meet in a runoff December 6.

With a  margin of error of plus or minus 4 percent, the poll indicates that a runoff between Landrieu and Cassidy is likely.

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy

In a hypothetical match up in the runoff, Cassidy was the choice of 50 percent to 47 percent for Landrieu, which was within the poll’s margin of error. However, among the larger pool of registered voters, Landrieu led Cassidy 51 percent to 45 percent — an indication that increasing voter turnout may be key to Landrieu’s survival.

The Louisiana race is one of eight contested Senate races across the South that are likely to decide which party controls the Senate.

A runoff would be nothing new for Landrieu. She faced a runoffs in 1996 and 2002 and survived both times.

The poll also found that just 37 percent of likely voters in Louisiana approved of President Obama’s job performance, compared to 61 percent who disapproved.

Louisiana U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu hit with new anti-Obamacare ad

Also, State Rep. Paul Hollis joins the race against Landrieu

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — An anti-Obamacare group is launching a multi-million dollar ad campaign criticizing U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and two other Democratic senators over President Obama’s claim that everyone who had health insurance would be able to keep it.

Obama’s assertion was characterized as the “lie of the year” by Politifact, a nonpartisan group that monitors political claims.

The anti-Landrieu ad, funded by Americans for Prosperity, shows footage of her on the floor of the Senate stating that people can “keep their current plan.” It also shows an exchange between Landrieu and CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in which she says she has no regrets about her vote in favor of Obamacare.

“We’re putting pressure on senators who repeated that lie and doubled down on Obamacare, even as it became obvious that the law was hurting millions of Americans,” said AFP President Tim Phillips in a statement

AFP is also targeting Senator Kay Hagan of North Carolina with a  separate ad featuring a small businesswoman from her state talking about the negative impacts of Obamacare. The group’s third target is Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

While the Landrieu campaign hasn’t reponded directly to the latest ad, her Web site does feature a fundraising pitch noting that “right win groups tied to the Koch brothers have already spent millions to attach her.”

David and Charles Koch, the billionaire owners of Koch Industries, helped found and fund Americans for Prosperity.

Meanwhile, Landrieu, who is running for her fourth term in the Senate, has drawn a third GOP challenger, State Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington, who has filed paperwork with the Federal Elections Commission and plans to make a formal announcement in January.

Two other Republicans are also running, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy from Baton Rouge and Rob Maness, a retired Air Force colonel from Madisonville.

Cassidy is the favored candidate of much of the Republican leadership, both in Washington and Louisiana. Maness is aiming for Tea Party support by positioning himself as the only “constitutional conservative” in the race.

To drive home his criticism of Cassidy as being too much like the incumbent, Maness’s Web site shows pictures of Landrieu, Cassidy and himself, with the captions “Mary,” “Mary,” and “Quite Contrary.”

In Louisiana, all of the candidates, regardless of party, run against each other in a single primary. If no candidate gets a majority, then the top two candidates face each other in a runoff.

In 2008, when she faced a single Republican, Landrieu won without a runoff. But she was forced into runoffs in both 1996 and 2002, when there were multiple Republicans and other Democrats in the race.

Here is the Americans for Prosperity ad against Landrieu:

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