Republican US Sen. Bill Cassidy Wins 2nd Term in Louisiana

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Republican Bill Cassidy defeated 14 challengers Tuesday to win a second term representing Louisiana in the U.S. Senate without a runoff, coasting more easily to victory than his hard-fought campaign six years ago to attain the seat.

The GOP incumbent from Baton Rouge received more than 50% of the vote in Louisiana’s open primary to avoid the Dec. 5 runoff.

“What a privilege I have of representing this great state and our great nation,” Cassidy said in a victory speech he held fewer than two hours after polls closed.

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Louisiana’s five U.S. House incumbents running for reelection also secured victories: Republicans Steve Scalise, Clay Higgins, Mike Johnson and Garret Graves and Democrat Cedric Richmond. The state’s 5th District House seat, open because Republican Ralph Abraham did not seek another term, was expected to be decided in December.

Democrats had hoped their favored candidate, Shreveport Mayor Adrian Perkins, could stop Louisiana’s streak of sending GOP contenders to Senate seats in Washington. But Cassidy, 63, had the power of incumbency, millions of dollars in campaign cash and the endorsement of President Donald Trump in a deep red state.

Cassidy suggested the Democratic agenda was unappealing to voters.

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“Their agenda is higher taxes, more regulations and in a phrase, less freedom. Our agenda is lower taxes, less regulation and in a word, liberty,” he said.

New Orleans voter and Trump supporter Myra Centanni Ruiz, 77, said she was pleased with Cassidy’s record.

“Everything that he would vote for, we would vote for,” said the self-described housewife, grandmother and great-grandmother, who put opposition to abortion at the top of her concerns.

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Perkins, 35, was a late entrant into the race and a veteran, with a West Point education, Harvard law degree and three tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. Democratic donors looking for a strong challenger to the GOP incumbent encouraged Perkins to run, and he received the backing of Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards and former President Barack Obama.

Voter Lidia Pollard, 73, a retired chief engineer in the Merchant Marine, said she voted for Perkins. “He’s a fellow member of the armed forces,” she said. Her vehement dislike for Trump played into her vote, too. “Cassidy is a rubber stamp for Trump,” she said. “So in my book that counts him out.”

But Perkins had far fewer dollars to run ads, gain name recognition and persuade voters who tend to support Republicans for federal races across much of Louisiana.

Perkins congratulated Cassidy in his victory Tuesday night.

“We all should pray for his success, and I look forward to working with him in his continued service for all of our constituents,” the Shreveport mayor said. Referencing the coronavirus pandemic, Perkins said: “These are very dark times for all of us, but Louisiana, our best days are ahead.”

Cassidy, a former U.S. House member and state senator, did little in-person campaigning and participated in no debates with his opponents. He relied on TV advertising and social media campaigns. His campaign style was less aggressive than in 2014, when he successfully unseated three-term Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu.

In the Senate, Cassidy has been a reliable conservative Republican vote and continued his congressional reputation as a policy wonk mainly focused on health care issues. Cassidy unsuccessfully pushed legislation to repeal and replace Obama’s federal health care overhaul, an effort that failed in the Senate during Trump’s term.

Though a doctor who contracted the coronavirus in August, Cassidy did not focus on the pandemic in his campaigning. Instead, he ran ads supporting veterans, touting his vote for Trump’s massive tax cuts and talking of his work on mental health reform. He launched his campaign in Livingston Parish, which had been heavily damaged in the state’s 2016 floods, to promote his recovery work.

Perkins panned Cassidy’s performance in Congress as too partisan, criticizing Cassidy’s votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

He said he decided to enter the race after seeing too little action from Cassidy and the Republican-led Senate to help families struggling with the coronavirus outbreak. Perkins highlighted his military service as part of the campaign.


By AP reporter Melinda Deslatte

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