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Republicans sweep the last three federal elections of the 2016 cycle
♦By Rich Shumate, Chicken Fried Politics.com editor
BATON ROUGE (CFP) — The third time was the charm for State Treasurer John Kennedy, who has captured a U.S. Senate seat from Louisiana on his third attempt for the office.
Kennedy, a Republican, easily swept aside Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell in the December 10 runoff, winning by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent.
In the night’s only upset, voters in the 3rd U.S. House District went for a tough-talking former deputy sheriff, Clay Higgins,, who has been dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” for anti-crime videos that have gone viral on the Internet. He beat Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a veteran politician with a long pedigree.
The Senate race pitted two of the state’s best known and longest-serving politicians. Kennedy has been treasurer since 2000, while Campbell has served on the PSC since 2003.
Kennedy, 64, from Madisonville, won on this third try for the Senate, having lost as a Democrat in 2004 and as a Republican in 2008 after switching parties in 2007.
Despite his long service in state office, Kennedy positioned himself as a political outsider ready to take on Washington.
“This campaign was about change versus status quo,” Kennedy said in his victory speech at a Baton Rouge hotel. “I believe that our future can be better than our present or our past, but not if we keep going in the direction that the Washington insiders have taken us for the past eight years.”
Campbell, 69, from Elm Grove, is also no stranger to losing campaigns, having lost three times for the U.S. House and once for governor. He faced an uphill battle in trying to win a Senate seat in a state that Donald Trump carried by nearly 20 points.
After Trump’s victory, donations to Campbell’s campaign poured in from around the country, pumping more than $2 million into his runoff effort. But in the end, it wasn’t enough.
“We worked as hard as possible. We left no stone unturned,” Campbell told supporters during a concession speech in downtown Baton Rouge. “We knew going in that this race was going to be tough.”
The Senate seat opened up after Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter decided to give it up to make an unsuccessful run for governor last year.
Kennedy’s win means Republicans will have 52 Senate seats, with 46 Democrats and two independents who caucus with the Democrats. Of the 28 Senate seats from the 14 Southern states, Republicans hold 24, with only four Democrats.
Runoffs were also held for two of Louisiana’s six U.S. House seats, which opened up when the incumbents made bids for the U.S. Senate. Republicans kept both seats.
Celebrity trumped resume in the 3rd District, which takes in the Acadiana region of southwestern Louisiana.
Higgins, a former deputy sheriff in St. Landry Parish whose tough-talking Crime Stoppers videos became an Internet sensation, easily defeated Angelle, who has served for nearly 30 years in elected or appointed office, including a brief stint as lieutenant governor.
The margin was 56 percent to 44 percent. This was a Republican-versus-Republican runoff, as no Democrat survived the all-party jungle primary on November 8.
Bad blood left over from the 2015 governor’s race may have also played a role in Higgins’s victory. Angelle came in third in that race, behind Vitter and the eventual winner, Democrat John Bel Edwards, but refused to endorse Vitter in the runoff. That angered Republican leaders, some of whom worked on Higgins’s behalf.
In the 4th District, which takes in the northwestern Louisiana, State Rep. Mike Johnson, from Bossier Parish defeated Democrat Marshall Jones, an attorney from Shreveport, by a margin of 65 percent to 35 percent.
With the victories by Angelle and Johnson, Republicans will maintain their 5-to-1 advantage in the state’s House delegation.
Across the South, Republicans hold 114 U.S. House seats to 40 for Democrats.
Democrats face uphill climbs in 2 races; 2 Republicans face off in the other
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
NEW 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.
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.
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 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.
Edwards defeats GOP U.S. Senator David Vitter, who announces he won’t seek re-election
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
In his concession speech, Vitter announced that he will not seek re-election to the Senate next year, opening a seat Republicans will have to defend to keep their majority.
Edwards took 56 percent in the November 21 vote, to just 44 percent for Vitter, easily winning a race few people thought Edwards could win when he announced his long-shot candidacy in 2013.
“The people have chosen hope over scorn, over negativity and over the distrust of others,” Edwards said at his victory party in a New Orleans hotel.
“I did not create this breeze of hope that’s blowing across our beautiful and blessed state, but I did catch it. And I thank God I did.”
Edwards, 49, an attorney and former Army Ranger from Amite, was the minority leader in the Louisiana House, where he was a strong critic of Republican Governor Bobby Jindal, particularly over Jindal’s refusal to expand Medicaid.
However, Edwards ran a race tailored to culturally conservative Louisiana–opposing abortion and supporting gun rights–to become the first Democrat to win a statewide race in seven years.
He will be one of just three Democratic governors in the 14 Southern states. The others are in Virginia and West Virginia.
Vitter, 54, started out the race for governor heavily favored. But he was dogged by two Republican challengers in the state’s all-party “jungle” primary and started the runoff far behind Edwards, who had the united support of Democrats.
So bitter was the primary that one of Vitter’s two Republican opponents, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, crossed party lines to endorse Edwards, angering the state’s GOP establishment. The other, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, sat out the runoff rather than supporting Vitter.
The senator was burdened both by Jindal’s marked unpopularity and continued fallout over a 2007 scandal in which he was linked to a Washington prostitution ring.
In the closing days of the campaign, Vitter tried to make the possible resettlement of Syrian refugees in Louisiana an issue, but it was not enough to catch Edwards, despite the state’s strong GOP tendencies.
“I have lost one political campaign in my life–tonight–and, ironically, it’s the campaign and the political effort I am most proud of, particularly these last few weeks, fighting shoulder to shoulder with you,” Vitter said during his concession speech at a hotel in suburban New Orleans.
Vitter then announced to his supporters that he would not seek re-election next year, ending his 23-year political career that took him from the State House in Baton Rouge to the halls of Congress.
“I had decided when I decided to make this race … that I wanted to pursue new challenges outside the Senate, no matter what,” he said. “I’d reached my personal term limit.”
While Republicans would be favored to keep the seat, Vitter’s decision gives Democrats their best chance outside of Florida of flipping a Southern Senate seat in 2016.
Vitter admits he “failed family,” as his opponent accuses him of choosing “prostitutes over patriots”
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
NEW ORLEANS (CFP) — Republican U.S. Senator David Vitter has gone on the air with a personal mea culpa in the Louisiana governor’s race after his Democratic opponent accused him in an ad of choosing “prostitutes over patriots.”
The new ad from Vitter — who acknowledged committing unspecified “sin” in 2007 after being publicly linked to a Washington, D.C. prostitution ring — begins with the line, “Fifteen years ago, I failed my family.”
“But I found forgiveness and love,” Vitter says, as a video plays of him sitting around a dining room table with his family. “I learned that our falls aren’t what define us but rather how we get up, accept responsibility and earn redemption.”
“You know me. I’m a fighter, and as your governor, I’ll get up every day to fight for you.”
Vitter’s new ad appeared just days after his Democratic opponent in the November 21 runoff, State Rep. John Bel Edwards, went up with a hard-hitting ad touting his military experience and drawing a sharp contrast between himself and Vitter.”
“The choice for governor couldn’t be more clear — John Bel Edwards, who answered our country’s call and served as a Ranger in the 82nd Airborne Division, or David Vitter, who answered a prostitute’s call minutes after he skipped a vote honoring 28 soldiers who gave their lives in defense of our freedom.”
The ad ends with the tagline, “David Vitter chose prostitutes over patriots. Now the choice is yours.”
The vote raised in the Edwards campaign ad was taken in 2001. After the prostitution scandal broke six years later, media reports of telephone records linked to the prostitution ring showed Vitter making a phone call to a D.C. madam at the time he was missing the vote.
Although the prostitution scandal is nearly eight years old and Vitter won re-election to the Senate in 2010 despite the lurid headlines, the controversy has continued to dog him in the governor’s race, particularly after a former prostitute claimed that Vitter got her pregnant and encouraged her to have an abortion. She said she refused and gave the child up for adoption.
Vitter has vehemently denied the allegations.
Vitter trailed Edwards by 17 points in the state’s all-party “jungle” primary in October. However, the Republican vote was split between Vitter and two other major Republican contenders, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardenne, while Edwards was the only major Democrat in the race.
Dardenne has since crossed party lines to endorse Edwards in the runoff; Angelle has so far remained neutral.
Watch the new ad from U.S. Senator David Vitter:
Watch the ad from State Rep. John Bel Edwards:
U.S. Senator David Vitter edges out two fellow Republicans for second spot in the November 21 runoff
♦By Rich Shumate, Chickenfriedpolitics.com editor
BATON 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.
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.”
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.”