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12 former Southern senators join letter calling on current Senate to defend democracy

Southerners are part of a group of 44 former senators who penned an open letter in the Washington Post

♦By Rich Shumate, ChickenFriedPolitics.com editor

WASHINGTON (CFP) — Twelve former Southern senators have joined an open letter calling on current senators “to be steadfast and zealous” in guarding democracy amid “serious challenges to the rule of law” flowing from investigations of President Trump and his administration.

“It is our shared view that we are entering a dangerous period, and we feel an obligation to speak up about serious challenges to the rule of law, the Constitution, our governing institutions and our national security,” wrote a bipartisan group of 44 former senators in the letter, which was published December 10 in the Washington Post.

The former senators cited a “convergence” between special counsel Robert Muller’s probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and additional investigations likely to be launched by the incoming Democrat-led House.

“We are at an inflection point in which the foundational principles of our democracy and our national security interests are at stake, and the rule of law and the ability of our institutions to function freely and independently must be upheld,” they wrote.

“At other critical moments in our history, when constitutional crises have threatened our foundations, it has been the Senate that has stood in defense of our democracy. Today is once again such a time.”

The letter was signed by 32 Democrats, 10 Republicans and two independents who served in the Senate between the 1970s and 2015. Among the signatories were 12 Southerners, including 11 Democrats and a lone Republican, John Warner of Virginia. The list includes:

The seats of all of the Southern Democrats who signed the letter, except for Robb, are now in Republican hands. Warner’s seat is now held by a Democrat.

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.

Democrat John Bel Edwards posts strong win in first round of Louisiana governor’s race

U.S. Senator David Vitter edges out two fellow Republicans for second spot in the November 21 runoff

♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

louisiana mugBATON ROUGE (CFP) — Democratic State Rep. John Bel Edwards has made a strong showing in the first round of Louisiana’s gubernatorial election, easily outdistancing Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter and giving himself a chance to become that rarest of creatures — a Democratic governor in the South.

Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards

Louisiana State Rep. John Bel Edwards

In the state’s October 24 all-party “jungle” primary, Edwards took 40 percent, easily outdistancing the eight other candidates and advancing to the November 21 runoff. Despite having won statewide twice before, Vitter could only manage 23 percent, although that was enough to edge out two other major Republican contenders, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne.

Although the Republican vote is expected to congeal around Vitter in the runoff, the senator — who has been plagued by a persistent sex scandal and trailed Edwards by nearly 188,000 votes in the first round — has a lot of ground to make up. If Edwards wins, he will be one of just four Democrats holding governor’s posts in the South, with the others being in Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia.

If the candidates’ election night speeches are any indication, the runoff is likely to be loud and nasty .

“Over the next few weeks, David Vitter is going to spend millions of dollars lying about my record, lying about my values (and) lying about my service to our country and to our state, ” Edwards told cheering supporters in Baton Rouge. “He’s desperate, and all he offers are lies and hypocrisy.”

“Somehow, the least effective senator in the United States Senate wants to be our next governor. We’re not going to allow that to happen.”

U.S. Senator David Vitter

U.S. Senator David Vitter

But Vitter told his supporters in suburban New Orleans that “even after President Obama shut down drilling in the Gulf and tried to limit our gun rights and belittled our religious beliefs and pushed amnesty for illegals, John Bel Edwards personally renominated President Obama in the Democratic National Convention.”

“So let’s be clear. Jon Bel Edwards not a casual supporter of Barack Obama. He is a true believer.”

Linking Edwards to Obama and more specifically, Obamacare, is replay of the 2014 U.S. Senate race, when Republicans managed to sink Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in a state which Obama lost by 17 points in 2012.

However, unlike Landrieu, Edwards is opposed to abortion and gun control, positions that are likely to help him in the culturally conservative Pelican State. But he has come out in favor of expanding Medicaid for uninsured Louisianians, which is a part of Obamacare that many conservatives strongly oppose.

Edwards, 49, a West Point graduate and former Army Ranger from Amite, has been in the legislature since 2008. This is his first bid for statewide office.

Vitter, 54, opted to seek the governor’s post instead of running for re-election to the Senate in 2016. He continued to be dogged throughout the campaign by details of a 2007 sex scandal in which he was linked to a prostitution ring in Washington and publicly admitted to unspecified “sin.”

The issue was re-ignited in the closing days of the gubernatorial campaign when a blogger published claims by a former prostitute that she had a relationship with Vitter and that he had pressured her to have abortion after she became pregnant with his child. Vitter denied the allegations.

Edwards made it clear on election night that he would put Vitter’s character front-and-center in the runoff.

“I live by the (West Point) honor code — a cadet will not lie, cheat, steal or tolerate those who do. And David Vitter wouldn’t last five minutes at West Point,” he said.

One area in which the two men agree is in their critical assessment of incumbent Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, whose approval ratings have plunged as the state dealt with a fiscal crisis. The term-limited Jindal is now running for president.

“Whoever you voted for, we can agree on one big thing: The politicians in Baton Rouge have created on heck of a mess — the state budget in disarray, eight years of cuts to higher education, and so many of our best and brightest having to leave the state for good opportunity,” Vitter said. “We’re going to take our future back.”

While Vitter stopped short of mentioning Jindal by name, Edwards showed no such reticence.

“For eight years, our people have been sacrificed on the altar of Bobby Jindal’s ambition. No more,” Edwards said. “We need a committed, honest, disciplined governor with the leadership ability to bring people together, regardless of race, gender, party (or) geography.”

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.

Ten things to watch for in Tuesday’s election

U.S. Senate, U.S. House and governorships are on the ballot all across the South

By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor

(CFP) — As voters go to the polls on Tuesday, here are 10 things to watch for in races across the South:

Wsouthern states smill There Be A Peach State Runoff? — Georgia has a unique election law providing for a general election runoff if neither candidate gets an outright majority — a distinct possibility in a close race with a third-party candidate. Polls show that both the U.S. Senate race between Republican David Perdue and Democrat Michelle Nunn and the governor’s race between incumbent GOP Governor Nathan Deal and Democratic State Senator Jason Carter could be razor close. If that happens, a runoff in the governor’s race would be December 9, but the Senate race would not be settled until January 6.

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu

Is Battle For Senate Control Headed To The Bayou? — Regardless what happens in Georgia, the in Louisiana between incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and her GOP opponent, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, is certain to head to a runoff. If Republicans need the Louisiana seat to gain control of the Senate, the Pelican State could become the focus of the American political world until the December 6 runoff.

How Much Of A Drag Is Obama? — The president’s approval ratings are anemic across the South, and none of the major Democratic candidates have brought him into the region to campaign. Linking each and every Democrat to Obama (and Obamacare) has been part and parcel of just about every Republican campaign. Tuesday will determine whether Obama’s unpopularity was a millstone that drowned Democratic prospects.

Will Florida Voters Resurrect Crist?Charlie Crist’s political career looked to be all but over after a disastrous run for the U.S. Senate four years ago. But now he’s back — this time as a Democrat — and, if the polls are to be believed, within striking distance of the governor’s mansion once again. If Crist pulls it off, it will be a remarkable feat of political redemption.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott

How Big Will Abbott Win? — There’s no question that Republican Greg Abbott will win the governor’s race in Texas over Democratic State Senator Wendy Davis, who ran a remarkably inept campaign. The only question is how badly Davis goes down. Democrats talked a good game earlier this year about turning Texas blue. Tuesday’s results could show how distant that dream really is.

Fallin And Haley On National Stage? — Both Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin and South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley are cruising to easy re-election wins, which could catapult them into the national conversation for 2016. Historically, being a governor has been the best way to become president, and perhaps one reason we haven’t had a female president is that no female governor has ever sought the White House. Tuesday’s results could start those kinds of conversations in Columbia and Oklahoma City.

Are Nunn And Graham Their Father’s Political Daughters? — Both Nunn, running for the U.S. Senate in Georgia, and Gwen Graham, who is seeking a U.S. House seat in Florida, are scions of prominent Democratic political families making their political debuts. Both have run strong campaigns in areas that lean Republican. So Tuesday could be a night of political deja vu.

How Many Southern Senate Seats Can Democrats Keep? — Right now, the Democrats have only eight out of 28 seats. They seem certain to lose one of those, in West Virginia, and three others — Arkansas, Louisiana and North Carolina — are in jeopardy. So the party of Jackson that once strode strong across the South could be reduced to having less than 15 percent of region’s Senate seats.

Has Georgia Turned Purple? — If Democrats pull off wins in the U.S. Senate and governor’s races in Georgia, they will no doubt crow about changing political winds in the Peach State. Tuesday’s results will show if Georgia, like Virginia before it, is becoming less reliably Republican, which would no doubt encourage Democrats to try to put the state into play in 2016.

Can Rahall Survive in West Virginia? — When Democratic U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall was first elected to Congress, bellbottoms were still the rage. But after 38 years in Washington, he is fighting for his political life in a state where opposition to the Obama administration’s environmental policies is dragging down the Democratic brand. If Rahall goes, the state’s entire House delegation will be in GOP hands, a sea change in a state that a generation ago leaned Democratic.

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.

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