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It’s easy to forget that a Senate race is still ongoing. Yep, Louisiana’s senate seat is still undecided.
Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu is locked in a bitter fight against Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, trying to save her political career. Her determination was evident at the final debate of the 2014 election Monday night - just five days before the December 6 runoff.
The odds are against the last remaining Democrat in the Deep South in a year where Republicans did exceptionally well up and down the ballot. Although she won a plurality in the November 4 election, that was against two Republicans who splintered the Republican vote. An average of polls taken in the race over the last three weeks show Landrieu down by about 15 percent.
But Landrieu is not giving up. Holding multiple campaign events daily and enjoying last minute support from Hillary Clinton and Stevie Wonder, Landrieu attacked Cassidy in a last ditch effort. She attempted to paint Cassidy as a deceitful politician who double dipped into public coffers to line his pockets with taxpayers dollars.
Cassidy, meanwhile, attempted to tie Landrieu to President Barack Obama, a continuation of a strategy that has been the basis of his entire campaign in the state where the president's approval rating is in the 30s.
In the 60-minute debate, Landrieu focused on questions surrounding Cassidy’s work as a doctor with Louisiana State University where he receives more than $2,000 per month for a questionable amount of work.
“It is heartbreaking to me that he would claim to be a doctor to the poor. Then he pads his own paycheck with their money,” Landrieu said.
Cassidy, who is also a member of Congress, said he and his employers – both LSU and the House of Representatives - are on the same page as he is regarding his responsibilities. He also defended the work he does for the hospital that serves lower-income and uninsured patients.
“I have been trying to help the uninsured and the poor never shutting the door on them but going out of my way to help,” Cassidy said.
Several times Cassidy, who never looked directly at Landrieu but straight ahead in the direction of the television camera, referred to a controversy surrounding Landrieu’s use of a taxpayer funded charter jet to attend a fundraiser. Landrieu, who didn’t directly address the months-old controversy in Monday’s debate, reimbursed the cost of the flight shortly after the controversy became public.
The two both promoted their work to pass the Keystone XL pipeline, which would transport crude oil from tar sands in Canada to Louisiana. While both promoted the pipeline's creation of jobs, the debate moderator pointed out that the construction of Keystone would not create any direct jobs in Louisiana.
Landrieu said it should still be built because it’s a “symbol” of the U.S.’s commitment to energy independence.
- Leigh Ann Caldwell