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U.S. Senate, House races will be decided in Louisiana runoff

Democrats face uphill climbs in 2 races; 2 Republicans face off in the other

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Voters in Louisiana will go to the polls one more time on December 10 to choose a new U.S. Senator and two members of the U.S. House for the northwestern and southwestern parts of the state, in the last federal elections of the 2016 cycle.

After the state’s all-party “jungle” primary on November 8, the Senate race features Republican State Treasurer John Kennedy and Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, pitting two of the state’s longest serving and best-known politicians against each other.

State Treasurer John Kennedy

State Treasurer John Kennedy

Kennedy came in first in the primary with 25 percent, with Campbell at 18 percent. Because Republicans have already secured their 51-seat Senate majority, the Louisiana runoff will not affect the balance of power.

Kennedy, 64, from Madisonville near New Orleans, has been Louisiana’s treasurer for nearly 17 years, winning statewide office five times. In 2004, he made an unsuccessful bid for the Senate as a Democrat and tried again in 2008, after switching parties and becoming a Republican. He lost to Democrat Mary Landrieu.

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell

Campbell, 69, from Elm Grove near Shreveport, has represented northwestern Louisiana on the Public Service Commission since 2003, a post he won after making three unsuccessful attempts to win a seat in the U.S. House. He also ran for governor in 2007, coming in fourth place in the primary.

The seat opened up after Republican  U.S. Senator David Vitter decided not to seek re-election and run instead for governor, a race he lost to Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards. Given the Pelican State’s Republican tilt, Kennedy is considered the favorite in the race.

In addition to the Senate race, voters in the 3rd U.S. House District, which takes in southwestern Louisiana, and the 4th District, which takes in the northwest, will choose new congressmen.

In the 3rd District Republican Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle from Breaux Bridge will face fellow Republican Clay Higgins, a former sheriff’s deputy from St. Landry Parish who became well known for tough-talking anti-crime videos that have gone viral on the Internet.

The seat opened when GOP U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany of Lafayette left to make an unsuccessful bid for the U.S. Senate seat, finishing third, just behind Campbell.

In the 4th District, Republican State Rep. Mike Johnson of Bossier Parish will face Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, in the runoff, which will be the last House pickup opportunity for Democrats.

The seat opened when U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden also decided to run for the Senate, where he finished fifth. Republicans have held this seat since 1988, making Johnson a prohibitive favorite.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise calls appearance at racist rally “a mistake”

Louisiana Republican says appearance was part of a campaign against a tax referendum

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugNEW ORLEANS (CFP) — House Majority Whip Steve Scalise is expressing regret over a 2002 appearance before a  group founded by white supremacist David Duke, saying he rejects the group’s “hateful bigotry.”

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise

“It was a mistake I regret, and I emphatically oppose the divisive racial and religious views groups like these hold,” Scalise said in a statement released December 30. “I am very disappointed anyone would try to infer otherwise for political gain.”

Scalise’s purported appearance before the European-American Unity and Rights Organization at a hotel in Metairie, a New Orleans suburb, was first reported by liberal blogger Lamar White, Jr., who attributed the allegation to Stormfront, a white supremacist Web site.

Scalise, 49, who represents a suburban New Orleans district in the House, was a state legislator at the time. He said the address to EURO was one of a number of speeches he gave to groups in opposition to a ballot initiative that shifted Louisiana’s tax base from sales to income taxes.

Scalise had initially said he did not remember speaking to the group and had no records indicating whether he had. However, in his latest statement, he conceded that he had spoken to the group.

The revelation of Scalise’s speech, coming just a week before Congress comes back into session, drew fire from Democrats, who called on the House GOP leadership to condemn the man they elected whip just last August.

However, both House Speaker John Boehner and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy released statements supporting Scalise.

While Boehner said Scalise made “an error in judgment,” the speaker said Scalise “was right to acknowledge it was wrong and inappropriate.”

“He has my full confidence as out whip,” Boehner said.

Democrats blasted Scalise’s original explanation, insisting that he must have known the group was affiliated with Duke, who served in the Louisiana legislature and ran for governor in 1991.

“There were media reports running up to the event that made it crystal clear who was going to be the highlight — David Duke,” said Stephen Handwerk, executive director of the Louisiana Democratic Party, in a statement. “If someone in Louisiana didn’t know about David Duke’s beliefs in 2002, they must have been hiding under a very large rock somewhere.”

Duke, 64, a former Nazi and KKK member, remade himself as less confrontational, far-right Republican in the 1980s and won a seat in the Louisiana House in 1989, representing Jefferson Parish, which Scalise also represents.

In the 1991 race for governor, he advanced to a runoff, where he was defeated by Democratic Governor Edwin Edwards. In late 2002 — after Scalise’s purported appearance in front of his group — Duke pleaded guilty to tax and mail fraud and was sentenced to 15 months in federal prison.

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.

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