Raising the Standard.

Battle on the Bayou, Part II: The Challengers

Blue skies, blue race? (Photo: Stuart Seeger)

This is Part II in a three-part series on the 2014 Senate race in Lousiana. Part I can be found here.

In April 2013, the field was clear for the assumed Republican nominee for U.S. Senate from Louisiana, Representative Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge. Cassidy is very popular in his home district, the Sixth, appeals to swing voters and spent the majority of his professional career as a doctor in Louisiana’s Charity Hospital systemmaking him the poster child of conservative health care alternatives. When Rep. John Flemming, a favorite son of the conservative movement, bowed out of the race, conservatives reluctantly started to fall behind Rep. Cassidy. It didn’t take long for the Senate Conservatives Fund to take up the case, however, as it sent a newsletter to its followers that featured a litany of Cassidy’s insufficiently conservative votes. It claimed to be vetting an alternative.

At the beginning of Cassidy’s campaign, many dismissed his past votesto raise the debt ceiling, to create “Cash for Clunkers” and to support subsidies to farmers who make over $250,000 —  in order to avoid a bloody primary like those that have plagued the Republican party in recent cycles. But after failed offensive after failed offensive against incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu [D-La.] and her liberal voting record, conservatives are seeking a new option. Whoever they pick must have enough success in the coming months to not only beat Rep. Cassidy, but also to keep Sen. Landrieu from achieving 50 percent of the vote due to Louisiana’s “jungle” primary system (a system in which all candidates enter the primary together, with the top vote earner winning the overall election unless he falls short of 50 percent, which sends the race into a traditional runoff).

Retired Air Force colonel Rob Maness, the alternative candidate proposed in the SCF email, has only made the news for his gaffes, which include tweeting his opposition to blocking a scheduled increase in federal flood insurance ratesflood insurance that is mandatory for many Louisianians, and which would cripple rural economies if raised. All six Republicans and two Democrats from the Louisiana congressional delegation were against the increase. Maness has also come out against farm subsidies, despite receiving $5,000 a year from the program he wishes to cut.

While Maness’s loose tongue and low name recognition may be the end of the road for his campaign, they pave the way for two viable conservative alternatives to the current ballot: State Senator Elbert Lee Guillory and State Senator Alan Seabough.

Many saw Guillory’s nationally commended video “Why I Am a Republican” as a launching pad into the 2014 Senate race. Guillory comes from a heavily minority district and is the first African-American Republican state senator in Louisiana since Reconstruction. He is strong on social issues, hawkish on fiscal issues and is now head of the Free At Last PAC, a group devoted to bringing the conservative message to the black community. State Senator Guillory has faded from the limelight in the past month and has still only flirted with a run for Senate — perhaps has he eyes the upcoming gubernatorial election in 2015.

The most viable voice of conservative opposition rises from State Senator Alan Seabaugh, who made headlines in early October by simply stating, “The candidate who’s going to challenge Mary [Landrieu] is not in the race yet.” Seabaugh’s lack of political experiencehe has only been in his current post two years — can distance him from the Washington paralysis linked to both Cassidy and Landrieu. Additionally, Seabaugh hails from Shreveport, one of the U.S.’s fasting growing cities and a critical battleground in 2014.

Although Sens. Seabaugh and Guillory provide hope, still no viable conservative option stands ready to face Cassidy. Time is running out, since Cassidy is fundraising at near-nominee levels (still too dismally low to beat Landrieu), and neither Seabaugh nor Guillory have sufficient name recognition to compete in the primary. Even if conservative Republicans must settle on Cassidy, Sen. Landrieu is arguably the most vulnerable candidate in the 2014 cycle, and deposing her is contrary to the position of the SCF the ultimate goal.

—Tristan Bagala is a freshman studying international affairs

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