December 8, 2014
General (runoff) elections occurred over the weekend for a handful of federal and local offices. Following is an overview of the results.
In the only statewide contest Cong. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, defeated incumbent U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-New Orleans, by a twelve-point margin (56 percent to 44 percent). This race drew considerable national attention several months ago as it became clear that Cassidy was gaining serious momentum and was in position to unseat Sen. Landrieu, a three-term incumbent and Louisiana’s last remaining statewide elected Democrat. Cassidy was able to successfully paint Landrieu as a “D.C. insider” who is out of touch with Louisiana values and supported Pres. Barack Obama 97 percent of the time. While a considerable amount of focus was on tying Landrieu to Pres. Obama, it should be noted that Cassidy likewise developed a knack for connecting with voters on a personal level. Cassidy is a medical doctor (liver specialist) who has spent the past 20-plus years treating indigent patients in the state’s charity hospital system and teaching future doctors in LSU’s medical school.
Sen. Landrieu early on in the campaign touted her strength in the Senate by pointing to her clout as chair of the Energy Committee, which is important here due to Louisiana’s substantial oil and gas activity. However, shortly after the November primary elections wrapped up, incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, promised to appoint Cassidy to the Senate Energy Committee if he won the runoff. So, it appears Louisiana will retain a strong voice on that committee after all.
Many have asked what Landrieu’s next move is going to be. While it’s obviously way to soon to speculate, there are some mild rumors floating around that she may want to throw her hat in the 2015 governor’s race. That would certainly create interesting political theater considering Louisiana’s other U.S. Senator, David Vitter, R-Metairie, is currently considered the leading candidate in that race. That picture will clear up within the next several weeks.
Fifth Congressional District (Northeast LA / Monroe / Alexandria / Bogalusa)
Dr. Ralph Abraham, R-Mangham, defeated Mayor Jamie Mayo, D-Monroe, by attracting 64 percent of the vote. This race is Dr. Abraham’s first run for political office; he is a general practitioner and turned 60 years old this fall. Abraham is succeeding incumbent Cong. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, who failed to make the runoff after serving less than a year in office. Dr. Abraham will be appointed to the House Agriculture Committee and Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
Sixth Congressional District (Greater Baton Rouge / Livingston / Bayou areas)
In the race to fill incumbent Cong. Cassidy’s seat, newcomer Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, defeated former four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards, D-Gonzales, by capturing 62 percent of the vote. Graves fought hard to earn support throughout the district and in some parts outside the district boundaries; he led in the fundraising department in both the primary and the runoff. Despite having never run for office Graves has considerable political experience; he served the past several years in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration as director of Louisiana’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority (CPRA). Prior to leading CPRA, Garret worked in various capacities for U.S. Sen. David Vitter, former Louisiana Cong. Billy Tauzin, and former U.S. Sen. John Breaux. Garret’s background is expected to make quick headway navigating D.C. for the 6th District; he is going to be appointed to the House Transportation Committee and Natural Resources Committee, which both are of great interest to south Louisiana.
Edwards, who is now 87 years old, was not able to shake off his tarnished image in a district that has become increasingly conservative. It has been reported that this race is the only election Edwards has ever lost.
Public Service Commission, District 1
Incumbent Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta, R-Metairie, narrowly defeated challenger and political newcomer Forest Bradley Wright, R-New Orleans. When the dust settled, Skrmetta won by fewer than 4,000 votes in a race that included over 236,000 votes cast. This race ended up being one of the nastier, personal contests in the election cycle with storylines involving house fires, car bombs, and restraining orders. Skrmetta received considerable support from business and industry while Wright was accused of being a far-left environmentalist who very recently swapped parties. Wright heavily attacked Skrmetta throughout the race and he even led the field in the primary. Skrmetta’s reelection to the five-member PSC helps retain the body’s 3-2 Republican majority.
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