Democrat Landrieu Headed To Runoff In Louisiana

BATON ROUGE (AP) — Endangered Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu won't know her political fate for another month, when she'll face Republican Bill Cassidy in a runoff election, after no candidate won an outright majority of the vote in Tuesday's election.

         With the Dec. 6 head-to-head matchup, Louisiana's Senate seat is expected to be the last decided across the nation.

         Landrieu had insisted she could avoid a runoff, but she couldn't scrape together enough votes in the eight-candidate field, which also included GOP contender and tea party-favorite Rob Maness, who drew double-digit support.

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         And the road ahead to a fourth term for the incumbent senator seemed a difficult one.

         The two main GOP candidates brought in more combined support than Landrieu, in a state trending more heavily Republican. Landrieu won 42 percent of the vote, compared to 41 percent for Cassidy and 14 percent for Maness.

         Landrieu refused to acknowledge the difficulty, however.

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         "We have the race that we want. And Bill Cassidy, you cannot run, you cannot hide anymore. This race is starting tonight," she said.

         Polls have shown Cassidy, a congressman, with the edge in a runoff.

         "You the people of Louisiana have sent the signal tonight that you want a senator who represents Louisiana, not a senator who represents Barack Obama," Cassidy told supporters.

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         Never one to win easily, Landrieu is the last Democratic statewide elected official in a state where President Barack Obama is unpopular and Mitt Romney easily won in 2012.

         But the woman jokingly nicknamed "Landslide Landrieu" for her tight wins insists that this isn't her most difficult contest. She points to her first Senate victory 18 years ago, when then-state treasurer Landrieu won the open seat by fewer than 5,800 votes.

         To hang onto her seat, Landrieu will need to overcome Republicans' argument that a vote to return Landrieu to Washington is the same as casting a ballot for Obama. Exit polls showed about half of Louisiana's voters strongly disapprove of the way the president is doing his job.

         Landrieu immediately challenged Cassidy to six debates in the runoff.

         "One hour for each year of a Senate term. I don't think that's too much to ask a guy who wants to represent 4.6 million people in the United States Senate," she said. "You're going to have to say more than President Obama's name in these debates."

         Cassidy, 57, a Baton Rouge doctor who worked in the charity hospital system, has tied Landrieu to the president, repeatedly citing her vote for the health care law and saying she supports Obama "97 percent of the time."

         The message appeared to work for Jean Adolph, 75, a Republican and retired schoolteacher who chose Cassidy at her polling place in Metairie, a suburb of New Orleans.

         "I'm voting for the party — giving the Republican Party the power," she said.

         But Republican Juan Parke, a 51-year-old New Orleans tour guide, didn't follow partisan lines when voting for Landrieu.

         "Bill Cassidy hasn't shown me anything. His ads are just shouting at the president," Parke said. The Republicans, he said, had not "shown me a reason to get rid of a senator chairing two very powerful committees."

         Landrieu distanced herself from Obama, saying she's worked with — and disagreed with — three presidents, voting for what's best for Louisiana, not for her party. Obama stayed away from Louisiana during the campaign.

         In various elected offices her entire adult life, Landrieu touted her seniority in the Senate, her chairmanship of the energy committee and her record of bringing federal aid to Louisiana. She referenced her family's deep ties to Louisiana: her father, Moon, was mayor of New Orleans, and her brother Mitch currently holds the job.

         Republicans, however, described Landrieu as out of touch with her home state.

         Maness, 52, a political newcomer and retired Air Force colonel, blasted both Landrieu and Cassidy as being part of a Washington establishment that is more concerned with protecting party bosses than with following the constitution. While his grassroots campaign attracted solid support, he couldn't overcome a fundraising deficit and the Republican Party's backing of Cassidy.

         The race is Louisiana's most expensive for a Senate seat ever. At least $25 million was spent by the candidates and millions more by outside groups who blanketed TV and radio with attack ads.

         – by AP Reporter Melinda Deslatte

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