Dem incumbent
holds Senate seat

By WND Staff

Democratic Senate incumbent Mary Landrieu held her seat in the Louisiana Senate runoff contest against GOP challenger Suzanne Haik Terrell.

A win by the Republicans would have given them 52 seats in the upper house, but they still control the Senate with 51 votes.

Landrieu won 51 percent of the vote to Terrell’s 49 percent.

The unusual December election capped a nasty campaign that also featured a flood of appearances by Republican bigwigs, including President Bush. Polls in the final week pegged the race as a dead heat — and that’s just what it seemed to be down to the final count.

The race went back and forth all night, with Terrell taking an early lead and Landrieu coming on strong at the finish.

If Terrell had won, she would have become the first Republican to be elected senator from Louisiana. Democrats hold a 3-1 margin in registration over Republicans in the state.

Landrieu, trying to keep a centrist image, relied on popular fellow Democrat Sen. John Breaux but none of the party big-hitters like former President Clinton.

Terrell, 48, came out of nowhere three years ago to become the first Republican woman to win statewide office, as elections commissioner.

Landrieu, 46, seeking her second term, has been in politics all her life. The daughter of former New Orleans Mayor Moon Landrieu, she narrowly squeezed into the Senate six years ago with a 6,000-vote squeaker against Republican Woody Jenkins, prompting her to joke that she was no ”Landslide Landrieu.” That election was marked by charges of widespread voter fraud.

Although the rest of the nation decided its congressional elections Nov. 5, Louisiana held a unique open primary where candidates from both sides run. Landrieu failed to get the required 50 percent plus one vote for outright victory and wound up in a runoff with second-place finisher Terrell.

Republicans had a 51-49 edge in the Senate after the November elections and took aim on this race for icing on the cake. In addition to bragging rights, an additional GOP seat would have provided ammunition in the fight to get more committee seats. And it would have provided a cushion in case a Republican senator left office and was replaced by a Democrat.

Landrieu was caught in a bind during the campaign, remembering that Bush had carried her state in 2000. Her primary campaign ads boasted that she had voted with the president 74 percent of the time but not on issues that were harmful to Louisiana.

That strategy kept black voters at home in large numbers on primary election day, their leaders complaining that Landrieu sounded like a Republican. For the runoff, Landrieu fired her strategists and launched a more aggressive attack in a bid to appear more independent.

Terrell’s message changed from a primary campaign that said the president needed control of the Senate to one that stressed that Louisiana ”has one good senator but needs one in the majority party to get more done for the state.” It was a reference to Breaux, who is as popular in Louisiana as the president.
Bush even praised Breaux when he campaigned for Terrell.

Bush became the major issue in both campaigns, which failed to fire up the voters. Both candidates were not far apart on issues such as Social Security, Medicare, prescription drugs for the elderly, and homeland defense. Both support Bush’s stand on Iraq.

Their glaring difference was on abortion.

Both candidates claim Roman Catholicism as their faith. But Landrieu supports unrestricted abortion and Terrell favors curbs. Louisiana is heavily Catholic — 1.3 million of the 4.4 million people — and in the 1996 campaign abortion was central. Former archbishop Philip Hannan issued a statement saying it would be a sin to vote for Landrieu.