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Blog Home Page --> House -- Louisiana -- 06

LA 06: Cazayoux Up Big

An internal poll for Rep. Don Cazayoux showed him with a big lead, and now a DCCC poll echoes the sentiment. A Bennett Petts & Normington poll conducted 10/8-9 for the DCCC surveyed 400 registered voters for a margin of error of +/- 4.9%. Cazayoux, state Senator Bill Cassidy and state Rep. Michael Jackson, the independent candidate, were tested.

General Election Matchup
Cazayoux........46
Cassidy.........29
Jackson......... 9

Jackson, an African American former Democrat who lost the special election primary to Cazayoux, was supposed to have seriously cut into Cazayoux's base. But having failed to raise serious cash, Jackson doesn't look like a major factor so far.

Dems Win LA, GOP Sees An Opening

State Representative Don Cazayoux defeated a former state legislator in Louisiana's Sixth Congressional District last night, marking the second time in two months that Democrats have won a special election seat previously held by Republicans. Cazayoux took 49% of the vote to newspaper publisher and longtime political hand Woody Jenkins' 46%.

Cazayoux won Baton Rouge, the southern and western suburbs and most of West Feliciana and St. Helena Parishes, as well as the precincts surrounding Lake Pontchartrain. Jenkins took more traditionally Republican territory south and east of the city, as well as most of Livingston Parish. The two candidates split East Feliciana Parish, north of Baton Rouge along the Mississippi border.

The special election win marks the first time in three decades since 1975 that a Democrat will represent the district, based around Baton Rouge and east to Livingston Parish, near the northwest shores of Lake Pontchartrain. More importantly, Cazayoux's win offers further evidence that Republicans may face another Congressional landscape as difficult as the 2006 election, when the GOP lost thirty seats and the majority. A CBS News/New York Times poll out this week suggested 50% of Americans prefered a generic Democratic candidate for Congress, while just 32% prefered the Republican contender.

The election contest had turned unpleasant in recent weeks, with both parties spending heavily on advertising that painted unflattering pictures of their opponents. The National Republican Congressional Committee spent nearly $440,000 on the race, according to Federal Election Commission reports filed yesterday, while the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee expended nearly $1.2 million by the end of the contest.

National Democrats focused on Jenkins' tax issues and previous associations with some of Louisiana's more unseemly politicians. Republicans, on the other hand, sought to make the election national by running advertisements linking Cazayoux to Illinois Senator Barack Obama and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

"Don Cazayoux's victory this evening proves once again that Americans across our country want real solutions and reject Republicans' negative attacks," Pelosi said in a statement. "Democrats are winning in solidly Republican districts because the country agrees it's time for a change from the status quo in Washington," House caucus chair Rahm Emanuel added in his own statement.

Republicans, though, said their strategy of linking Cazayoux and other Democrats to Obama and Pelosi can work. GOP polls showed Jenkins trailing by nearly ten points before the two major Democratic figures were introduced into the race. Though Jenkins never broke 45% in internal polls, making the race a national contest kept it close despite Jenkins' own high negative ratings.

"When Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi were introduced into this campaign, Don Cazayoux was leading by a large margin in the polls," an NRCC memo released last night said. "Since then, Republicans saturated the Baton Rouge airwaves in an effort to nationalize this contest and make the election about the real life consequences of a Barack Obama presidency and a continued Pelosi-run Democratic Congress. In that time, Republicans made substantial ground."

The NRCC has also made Pelosi and Obama an issue in neighboring Mississippi, where voters head to the polls to select a replacement for Senator Roger Wicker's House seat. Similar advertisements as those that ran in Louisiana caused the Democratic candidate running there, Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers, to respond, characterizing the association between himself and Obama as attacks. "This election speaks to the potential toxicity of an Obama candidacy and the possible drag he could have down-ballot this fall," the NRCC memo said.

Whether Obama and Pelosi become an effective issue for national Republicans is a question that could be answered when Mississippi voters head to the polls on May 13. But given that Democrats were able to win a congressional seat long held by Republicans, and one that gave President Bush a nineteen-point victory in 2004 and a generic ballot deficit similar to that the party faced a week before the 2006 elections, Republicans will need any help they can get.

Cazayoux Still Up In LA

Adding to Republican panic that they could lose another special election, a new poll conducted for State Rep. Don Cazayoux and reported by Roll Call's John McArdle shows the Democrat with a slightly expanded lead over Republican opponent Woody Jenkins since a similar poll conducted in mid-March.

The survey, conducted by Anzalone Liszt Research, a Democratic firm based in Alabama, was conducted 4/8-10 among 500 likely special election voters. The margin of error is +/- 4.4%, and Cazayoux and Jenkins were tested.

General Election Matchup
Cazayoux 49 (nc from last, 3/08)
Jenkins 42 (-2)

The poll also shows both candidates are seen favorably by most voters in the district. Cazayoux is viewed favorably by 55% of district voters, while just 13% see him unfavorably, and Jenkins has a 56%-34% favorable to unfavorable margin.

Both parties have spent heavily in the district, including initial television ad buys of about $100,000 each last week. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee continues to spend about $1,500 to $2,000 a day on field organizing, and the party has dumped an additional $30,000 into new television ads. If Democrats win the seat, it would be their second special election take-away this year, following Democrat Bill Foster's win in an Illinois congressional district last month.

Cazayoux and Jenkins will meet in the special election on May 3.

Parties Spending In Specials

Meeting with reporters earlier this week, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Chris Van Hollen reemphasized how important a special election win can be to a party committee, a little more than a month after Democrat Bill Foster beat Republican Jim Oberweis in an exurban Chicago district previously held by former Speaker Dennis Hastert. "Illinois 14 did send a political shockwave across the country," Van Hollen said.

Now, Democrats are hoping they can repeat the performance. Sensing another opportunity to steal a seat from Republicans, the DCCC has started spending money in a Louisiana district once held by Republican Richard Baker, buying more than $92,000 in television time for an ad opposing Republican nominee Woody Jenkins. In addition, the party is spending more than $10,000 on literature on behalf of their candidate, State Rep. Don Cazayoux, and for field organizing.

The National Republican Congressional Committee, which had initially suggested that they would not spend significant resources should Jenkins have won the primary, is firing back with a new ad of their own, hitting Cazayoux for what they characterize as a career spend raising taxes. The NRCC bought just over $100,000 for the ad, which slams Cazayoux without mentioning Jenkins.

The district should not be a problem for Republicans, under normal circumstances. President Bush won easily there, twice, and Baker never had a difficult time beating out his Democratic opponents. But an influx of new voters, many refugees from Hurricane Katrina, may have tilted the district enough to the left to be winnable for Democrats. Jenkins makes Cazayoux's job easier, as he's widely considered to be too conservative for an already conservative district.

Republicans may be in for more bad news in the neighboring state, where Mississippi Senator Roger Wicker's former House seat is also up for grabs in a special election later this month. A poll commissioned by Democrat Travis Childers shows him in a statistical dead heat with Republican Greg Davis in a seat that is even more conservative than Baker's Louisiana district.

The poll, Republicans will point out, was conducted by a Democratic firm and for a Democratic candidate. But it's close enough and worrying enough to make Republicans begin to panic. While no party committees have spent money on advertising in the district, new FEC reports show the NRCC paid Republican firm Ayres, McHenry & Associates $12,000 for their own survey of district voters.

If Republicans, already in a financial hole, have to play defense in seats like Baker's and Wicker's, the party is in for a seriously painful year. On the other hand, Democrats will face more challenges this fall when they have to run with a presidential nominee heading the ticket. Southern voters may be willing to vote for a Democrat in a special election, but the job gets a lot harder when a Republican candidate can associate themselves with John McCain, who is likely to carry most southern states by large margins.

Dems Lead LA Special

A poll conducted for Democratic State Rep. Don Cazayoux looks to confirm Republicans' biggest worries, that Cazayoux will make a serious play for the front-runner mantle in his central Louisiana district in advance of next month's special election to replace retired Republican Rep. Richard Baker. National Republicans have made noise recently that Woody Jenkins, the Republican nominee to replace Baker, could prove an even more flawed candidate than businessman Jim Oberweis did in losing an Illinois special election last month.

The poll, conducted by the well-respected firm Anzalone-Liszt Research, surveyed 500 voters likely to cast ballots in the May 3 special election for a margin of error of approximately +/- 4.5%. Cazayoux and Jenkins were tested.

General Election Matchup
Cazayoux 49
Jenkins 44

In a district that gave President Bush wide margins in both elections, Republicans don't have a lot to be optimistic about lately. First, the Democrat far outraised the Republican; through the pre-primary reporting period, on March 16, Cazayoux held $110,000 in reserve while Jenkins had just $18,000 cash on hand.

Second, many people have said inflated turnout from the presidential primary won't help Democrats in November. That was before Democrats outpaced Republicans in the special election runoff, where 34,000 people voted for either Cazayoux or State Rep. Michael Jackson and just 24,000 chose between Jenkins and businesswoman Laurinda Calongne.

The general special election between Jenkins and Cazayoux, to replace Baker, takes place on May 3. The four candidates are also the leading contenders in Louisiana's primaries on October 20, the latest such contests in the country, with a runoff set for November 17, thanks to the state's old system of declaring a winner from two top candidates vying for office, regardless of party.

LA Nominees Chosen

Runoff elections to choose nominees for two open Louisiana Congressional seats produced mixed results for Republicans over the weekend as Democrats think they have a chance to pick off another special election leading into November.

Republicans got the candidate they wanted in the state's First District, where State Senator Steve Scalise outpaced his GOP opponent and is heavily favored to win election in now-Governor Bobby Jindal's old seat. But in the Baton Rouge-based Third District, Republicans nominated a decidedly weaker candidate while Democrats picked up their favored candidate.

Former State Senator Woody Jenkins, a Republican who ran against Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu in 1996, easily defeated lobbyist Laurinda Calongne by a 62%-38% margin. Jenkins, now a newspaper editor, is heavily associated with the religious right and has been tied to white supremacist David Duke, from whom he bought a campaign list during the 1996 Senate race. Jenkins has denied the tie and said that had he known Duke was associated with the company, he would not have made the purchase.

Jenkins will face Democratic State Rep. Don Cazayoux (pronounced "ca-zhou," almost like the kind of nut), a conservative Democrat who last week won the endorsement of the National Rifle Association. The two are vying to replace former Rep. Richard Baker, who resigned to take a position with the national hedge fund lobby, in a special election on May 3.

Baker's district, based around Baton Rouge, to the northwest of New Orleans, has voted heavily for Republicans in the past, including for President Bush by twelve points in 2000 and by nineteen points in 2004. Baker had a tough race in his initial effort, in 1986, and finished with just 51% in both 1992 and 1998, though he was generally re-elected by wide margins.

Still, Democrats are hopeful they can paint Jenkins as a radical while promoting Cazayoux as a moderate, or even a conservative. An internal Republican poll found Cazayoux leading Jenkins by three points, Roll Call's John McArdle reported, and among key demographics, including older men, the Democrat leads by even wider margins. One Republican told McArdle that Jenkins' win could mean the National Republican Congressional Committee is supporting him in little more than spirit.

An NRCC memo after Jenkins' win touted their candidate's "deep roots" in the Baton Rouge area, along with Bush's big margins and Jindal's 55% win in the district, a higher percentage than he received throughout the state. A statement from DCCC chairman Chris Van Hollen touted Cazayoux as "a strong, independent leader who shares the values and priorities of middle class families" in the district.

If Republicans lose, it would be the second special election this year in which the party has failed to retain a seat vacated by one of their own members. Democrats picked up a special election win in Illinois in early March when scientist and businessman Bill Foster beat investor and dairy magnate Jim Oberweis to win back former Speaker Dennis Hastert's Aurora-based seat.

Parties Get Top LA Picks

Little noticed as Democrat Bill Foster was busy picking up Dennis Hastert's seat in Illinois, Louisiana voters headed to the polls Saturday for primaries to replace retired Rep. Richard Baker and now-Governor Bobby Jindal. In both districts, the parties' preferred candidates made it safely through to a runoff, which will be held April 5.

Jindal's old First District, based in the wealthier parts of New Orleans down to Lake Pontchartrain and north to along the Mississippi border, is one of the most Republican-heavy in the state. Jindal won his initial election, to replace now-Senator David Vitter, with 78% of the vote as President Bush carried the district with 71%. On Saturday, State Senator Steve Scalise took 48% of the vote, and will face State Rep. Tim Burns in the April Republican runoff. Burns got 28%, but by holding Scalise under 50%, Burns has a chance in a few weeks.

The winner of the runoff will be a heavy favorite to take the seat over University of New Orleans professor Gilda Reed, the winner of the Democratic primary with 70% of the vote. Far fewer Democrats voted in the primary than Republicans, showcasing the district's strong GOP tilt; both Democratic candidates combined beat Scalise's vote total by just five votes.

Baker's old Sixth District, though, will not be as easy for Republicans to hold. Just west of Jindal's seat, the Sixth encompasses Baton Rouge and a few rural parishes north to the Mississippi line. The district also favors Republicans, voting for Bush with 59% in 2004 and offering Baker just one scare, in 1992. Thanks to Baton Rouge, though, the district is one of the most heavily African American in the country to be represented by a member of the GOP; about a third of district residents are black.

Democrats think they have a shot to pick up the seat, and State Rep. Don Cazayoux, the DCCC's favored candidate, led the pack on Saturday with 35%. Fellow state Rep. Michael Jackson earned 27% to win a spot in the runoff. Republican state Rep. Woody Jenkins came within 0.15% of avoiding a runoff and will face lobbyist Laurinda Calongne in April.

More Democrats cast ballots in the special election than Republicans, by a wide 45,000 to 30,000 margin, giving the party hope of a possible opening. Louisianans, used to being able to vote for candidates of both parties in primary and general elections (thanks to a unique primary system), are notoriously free of party ties, making a Democratic win in an otherwise Republican seat a distinct possibility.

The winners of all three runoffs will meet in a May 3 general election.

GOP Favored For Baker's Seat

Special election nominees will be chosen Saturday in Louisiana, where two Republican House members stepped down this year.

In the 1st District, Bobby Jindal left office after winning the governorship, leaving vacant the most Republican district in the state. In the 6th District, Richard Baker left his Baton Rouge-based seat to head up a national hedge fund association. Baker, who retired in the middle of his 11th term, had no major party opposition in 2006 and was considered safe for re-election this year.

The Republican nominee in the 6th District is likely to win the special election, though the results should be closer than in the 1st District. Although Democrats currently outnumber Republicans by almost 2-to-1 in the district, voters have traditionally preferred Republicans in the general election. President Bush won 59 percent here in 2004 and Baker has regularly won by wide margins.

The four Republicans up for the nomination include consultant Laurinda Calonge, contracts administrator Michael Cloonan, former state Rep. Woody Jenkins, and former Baker chief of staff Paul Sawyer. In the last FEC reports candidates filed, Calonge reported having raised close to $200,000, with just more than $100,000 cash on hand through February 17. Not far behind is Sawyer, who raised $112,000 with $88,000 on hand. Jenkins raised $80,000 with $22,000 in the bank, while Cloonan did not file a report with the FEC.

Among the five Democrats running, State Rep. Don Cazayoux has a 2-to-1 lead in fundraising over his closest rival. Cazayoux raised $260,000 with $150,000 on hand as of February 17. Andy Kopplin, former director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, raised $126,000 with $85,000 on hand. Jason DeCuir and Michael Jackson both raised less than $20,000, and Joe Delatte did not file a report.

If the winner of both the Democratic and Republican primaries win more than 50 percent of the vote, the special general election will be held April 5. If at least one party goes to a runoff, it will be held April 5, with the general moved to May 3.

--Kyle Trygstad

Baker To Leave Congress

Louisiana Republican Richard Baker is likely to announce his departure from Congress shortly, Roll Call (subs. req'd) reports today. The eleven term congressman has agreed to take the helm of the Managed Funds Association, with whom he had begun negotiating just two weeks ago.

Baker, who has long served on the House Financial Services Committee, ran for chair of the panel in 2006 before Republicans lost their majority, losing to Alabama Republican Spencer Bachus. His Baton Rouge-based district, along with three rural parishes, and while about a third of the population is made up of African Americans, still went for President Bush by twelve points in 2000 and nineteen points in 2004.

Baker has not faced a serious challenge since 1998, when he fended off a well-funded and well-known Democratic challenger by just over one percent of the vote. Initially seen as a potential challenger to Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, Baker said last year that he would not make a Senate bid.

Republicans were left scrambling at the news that Baker would retire, though national party leaders and local officials told Roll Call to watch former Baker chief of staff Paul Sawyer, State Rep. Hunter Green and former State Rep. Woody Jenkins, who lost to Landrieu in 1996. Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee strategists have been pushing State Rep. Don Cazayoux as a strong candidate, though he had initially planned a run against Baker.

Baker will be the third member of Congress from Louisiana to leave this year. Rep. Jim McCrery has already announced his retirement, and Gov. Bobby Jindal was inaugurated as the nation's first Indian-American governor yesterday. Both are Republicans. Democratic Rep. Bill Jefferson remains a retirement or resignation threat as investigations into his conduct continue to loom.