Opinion: U.S. Senate run off

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There is, of course, a runoff in the U.S. Senate race between incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu and challenger Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy.

In the primary, Landrieu finished first with 42%, followed by Cassidy with 41%, and Republican Rob Maness with 14%.  Other candidates accounted for the remaining 3%,

It is an uphill battle for Landrieu after Republicans captured control of the U.S. Senate in the November 4 election.  But she has vowed to fight on in an effort to retain her Senate seat.

At first, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DSCC) decided to pull out its funding in the Louisiana race, but has reconsidered and is raising money for Landrieu.

In the primary, Democratic candidates received 639,209 votes while Republican candidates garnered 819,751 votes.  So voter turnout for both candidates are indeed important in the runoff.

Landrieu and the Democrats have to be scratching their heads on the demographic results of the vote.  Elderly voters gave Landrieu the least support when Cassidy and the GOP want to raise the retirement age  to 70 and cut Social Security and Medicare. 

The race by age groups:

  • 15-20 – Landrieu 50%, Cassidy 37%, Maness 9%.
  • 30-44 – Landrieu 46%, Cassidy 36%, Maness 14%.
  • 45-64 – Landrieu 41%, Cassidy 42^, Maness 15%.
  • 65+ – Landrieu 36%, Cassidy 47%, Maness 14%.

The race by gender:

  • Men – Landrieu 35%,, Cassidy 48%, Maness 15%.
  • Women – Landrieu 48%, Cassidy 36%, Maness 13%.

The race by race:

  • White – Landrieu 18%, Cassidy 59%, Maness 19%.
  • Black – Landrieu 94%, Cassidy 3%, Maness 1%.

The race by ideology:

  • Liberal – Landrieu 87%, Cassidy 7%, Maness 2%.
  • Moderate – Landrieu 54%, Cassidy 32%, Maness 12%.
  • Conservative – Landrieu 15%, Cassidy 82%, Maness 20%.

Area parish results:

  • Bossier – Landrieu 26%, Cassidy 52%, Maness 18%.  Voter turnout: 47.6%.
  • Caddo – Landrieu 52%, Cassidy 34%, Maness  11%.  Voter turnout: 45.4%.
  • DeSoto – Landrieu 43%, Cassidy 41%, Maness 13%.  Voter turnout: 54.9%.
  • Webster – Landrieu 37%, Cassidy 42%, Maness 17%.  Voter turnout: 52.9%.

Landrieu, if she goes down, will go down fighting.  She was on the campaign trail the day after the election saying that Cassidy has not supported students, the elderly, veterans, and farmers.

Even though the Republicans will control the Senate and committee chairmanships, Landrieu says her clout will still be felt as the ranking minority member of the Senate Energy Committee.

Meanwhile, Democrats say, Cassidy continues to run against President Obama rather than Landrieu and refuses to participate in debates.

SWEPCO feeling the heat

The Public Service Commission will investigate the condition of SWEPCO’s electrical system to determine if the company is having too many outages.

PSC members voted unanimously Thursday in  favor of Commissioner Foster Campbell’s proposal to conduct an independent review of SWEPCO’s ability to maintain service during all types of conditions.

“We are having too many outages too often, even  in calm weather,” Campbell said. “I want to know what we must do to keep the lights on.”

Campbell, D-Bossier City, announced his intention to investigate SWEPCO in early October following a thunderstorm that knocked out power to 35,000 customers.

“It’s not just about severe weather,” he said. “I  have heard from numerous SWEPCO customers who  say they routinely lose power in calm weather, or when the wind blows.

“This is not just an inconvenience. Particularly for businesses with sensitive equipment, it can be damaging and costly.”

Commissioners also supported Campbell’s plan to conduct the investigation using outside experts familiar with electric utility operations.

“I have supported SWEPCO’s requests for additional tree-trimming to keep the power lines free of obstructions, but this may not be enough,” Campbell said.

He added, “Winter is approaching, and what concerns me most is an ice storm that could knock out power to thousands of people for days. The company and the Commission owe it to the people to make the electrical system they depend on as durable as it can be.”

Provenza ready for runoff

Political novice Victoria Provenza stunned Shreveport’s political establishment when she finished second in the mayor’s race and earned a spot in the runoff on December 6.

Ollie Tyler finished first with 44% of the vote and Provenza had 25%.  Both withstood vicious negative attacks from the Patrick Williams campaign.  He came in third with 22%.

The other candidates: Sam Jenkins 4%, Anna Marie Arpino 2%, Jim Crowley 2%, and Melvin Slack 1%.  Voter turnout for the mayor’s race was 45.8%.

Provenza’s success came from a grass-roots and social media campaign with little organization and very little funding.  It was certainly a first in a race as big as Shreveport mayor and is drawing national attention.

But the first question facing Provenza after the euphoria of getting into the runoff faded was should she continue the race facing a 19 percentage point deficit.  It is reminiscent of the 1998 race when Democrat Keith Hightower led Republican Bo Williams 42-28% in the primary and Williams eventually dropped out of the runoff.

Dropping out is not an option as far as Provenza is concerned.  She told the Fax-Net she is energized, optimistic and moving forward as more political stalwarts gravitate to her campaign offering support and money.

There are some unanswered questions about the runoff scenario.  Will white voters unite behind Provenza or do they believe the race is over?  What will the Williams supporters do since the relationship between his campaign and Tyler’s was so vitriolic?

Provenza and Tyler are proclaiming that they will run a positive campaign in the runoff based upon the issues and what each can do for Shreveport if elected.

That would be refreshing after a primary campaign filled with negativity – mostly from the Williams campaign – that likely turned off a lot of voters.  It certainly didn’t help Williams, who was considered the early favorite in the race.

The runoff is filled with potential historical ramifications.  If Tyler wins, she will become the first female mayor since Republican Hazel Beard (1991-94) and the first black female mayor.

If Provenza wins, she knocks down the conventional wisdom that a white candidate can no longer be elected in Shreveport, and she will be the first “No Party” candidate to hold the city’s top office.

Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.