Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu’s clout in the United States Senate has reach new heights as she becomes chairwoman of the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
The Senate Democratic Caucus voted last week to honor Landrieu with the position, and the full Senate approved in a formality vote.
Wielding the gavel for the Energy Committee puts the state’s senior senator among the most powerful who chair the Senate’s 16 Standing Committees.
She was already chair of the Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship, but the Energy panel has a larger scope and more clout. She has to give up the Small Business chair because a senator can only chair one Standing Committee.
Landrieu will remain on that committee as a ranking member. She also serves on the Senate Appropriations Committee, acknowledged as the most powerful panel, where she chairs the Homeland Security Subcommittee and is a ranking member of the Defense Subcommittee, a key spot for keeping Barksdale and Fort Polk viable.
It has been 20 years since Louisiana had a senator in charge of the committee that oversees policies governing one of the largest industries in the state. Sen. J. Bennett Johnson of Shreveport was chairman of the committee between 1987 and 1995.
That fact was not lost on Landrieu. She said, “I am excited and honored to lead this committee that is so critical to Louisiana and the nation’s economic viability, job creation, and energy security. I’m humbled to be part of the long list of pro-energy senators from both parties who have led this committee with strength, vision, and distinction, including one of Louisiana’s finest, J. Bennett Johnston.”
Associations representing the energy industry praised her elevation to Energy Committee chair.
American Petroleum Institute President and CEO Jack Gerard said, “Senator Landrieu’s chairmanship arrives at a critical moment for U.S. energy policy. With her strong support, the people of Louisiana have played a major role in America’s energy revolution, and her deep understanding of energy issues will continue to serve her well as chairman.”
The American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity called Landrieu “a fearless leader in the Senate” in fighting “against EPA overreach.”
The Energy Committee controls legislation in the following major areas: energy resources and development, including regulation, conservation, strategic petroleum reserves and appliance standards; nuclear energy; Indian affairs; public lands and their renewable resources; surface mining; Federal coal, oil, and gas, and other mineral leasing; territories and insular possessions; and water resources.
Landrieu said in a statement, “I will remain focused on moving an agenda forward that is inclusive, bipartisan, and focused on the job creation that America needs and wants.”
She added, When we tap into energy here at home, we produce high-paying jobs right where we need them. These jobs pay the kind of wages and salaries that allow families to buy homes, save for the future, and build wealth.
The chair of the powerful committee so important to the state comes at an opportune time. Landrieu is seeking a fourth term this fall.
However, Republicans, who hope to unseat her, are not impressed with Landrieu’s plum post. Louisiana Republican Party Chairman Roger Villere commented: “Mary Landrieu isn’t a friend of Louisiana’s energy industry. She’s a friend of liberal special interests and President Obama’s anti-energy team.”
But as one local veteran politico put it, “I don’t care what letter – R or D – is behind the name, I would vote for anyone with that kind of clout in Washington.”
Yep, another Senate poll
Remember last week when we reported on a GOP-sponsored poll we said to sit tight because another one on the Louisiana U.S. Senate race would be coming soon? Well, it’s already here.
Surprisingly, the independent poll by Public Policy Polling (PPP) is very similar in its results to the GOP poll conducted by Harper Polling.
In both polls, incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu holds a double-digit lead over her main challenger, Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, when respondents are asked to choose between the four declared candidates.
As a refresher, Harper Polling had Landrieu at 42%, Cassidy at 29%, and Rob Maness and Paul Hollis at 4% each.
PPP’s new poll has Landrieu at 43%, Cassidy at 25%, Hollis at 5%, and Maness at 3%. That’s an 18-point spread between Landrieu and Cassidy in what would be the U.S. Senate primary election.
But in a head-to-head match-up, the race is a dead heat in both polls. In Harper, Cassidy led Landrieu 45-44%. In PPP, Landrieu leads Cassidy 45-44%. It appears those 11% of undecided voters will decide who wins the race.
It has to be a concern for Landrieu when only 33% of respondents selected a Republican candidate in the four-candidate field, but that number balloons to 44% in the likely runoff scenario with Cassidy.
Head-to head, Landrieu leads Maness 47-42% and Hollis 48-42%.
Another concern for Landrieu is that she got only a 37% job approval rating in the PPP poll. On the other hand, only 24% had a favorable opinion of Cassidy, while 11% gave Hollis and Maness a favorable rating.
In the Harper poll, Landrieu had a 41% approval rating and Cassidy was at 25%. Hollis was viewed favorably by 10% and Maness by 7%.
The money picture
It’s a given that the Louisiana U.S. Senate race will be a barnburner – and an expensive one. So let’s take a look at the money figures for the major candidates.
The figures include reports filed with the Federal Elections Commission through December 31, 2013. There will be much more money raised and spent as their campaigns progress down the political road to the November 4 primary.
Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu
In the current election cycle (that means from her last election in 2008), Landrieu has contributions totaling $9,489,717.
During the cycle, she has spent $3,132,392 and has $6,373,392 on hand as of December 31.
Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy
Cassidy has raised $5,121,030 for the U.S. Senate race. So far, he has spent $926,804 and has $4,194,224 on hand.
Republican Rob Maness
Maness, a retired Air Force colonel, has raised $342,175. He has spent $210,287 and has $131,888 on hand.
Republican state Rep. Paul Hollis
Hollis has put $250,000 of his own money into his campaign and has spent $25,960. He has $224,040 on hand.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.