GOP Unseats Sen. Mary Landrieu In Louisiana
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The final election battle of 2014 is now over. And Republicans have reason to celebrate. The GOP picked up a ninth Senate seat yesterday. Congressman Bill Cassidy defeated Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu 56 to 44 percent in a runoff.
NPR's Debbie Elliott reports the Republican victory means southern Democrats are vanishing from the political landscape.
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, BYLINE: Cassidy's victory builds on the GOP midterm sweep and knocks out the Senate's lone Democrat representing a Deep South state. Cassidy, a doctor from Baton Rouge, told supporters the election was a referendum on big government.
(SOUNDBITE OF SPEECH)
CONGRESSMAN BILL CASSIDY: This victory happened because people in Louisiana voted for a government which serves us, but does not tell us what to do.
ELLIOTT: Cassidy ran a low-key campaign foregoing public appearances for a slew of TV ads that tied Landrieu to President Obama and his unpopular health care law here. Landrieu stood by her vote in her concession speech.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONCESSION SPEECH)
SENATOR MARY LANDRIEU: Together, we have also fought a good fight. And it's not over yet for health care.
ELLIOTT: Landrieu had campaigned on how her seniority and clout had helped Louisiana during her three terms in office. Her supporters took the defeat hard watching tearfully as Landrieu stood on stage at a New Orleans hotel with her large extended family.
The Landrieu's are a democratic political dynasty. Her father, Moon, was mayor of New Orleans in the '70s, and her brother, Mitch, is Mayor now. Nancy Marsiglia calls it the end of an era.
NANCY MARSIGLIA: It's our last woman statewide elected official. She's the only Gulf Coast woman, the only Democratic woman in the south still in the Senate. And that's a big loss.
ELLIOTT: Earlier Saturday, the annual Krewe of Jingle parade rolled through downtown. Retiree Joseph Smith came from Covington, Louisiana to see the Christmas parade. He says he voted for Republican Bill Cassidy because he thinks Landrieu has been in office too long; not necessarily because of Cassidy's appeal.
JOSEPH SMITH: I want to say he's not a great debater or public speaker. But he's managed to garner an elected position. And, you know, he is going for a bigger one. And he's at - maybe at the right place at the right time. And Mary's not at the right place at the right time, you know. (Laughter).
ELLIOTT: Republicans now claim all the Senate seats, governorships and state legislatures in a large swath of the South spanning from the Carolinas to Texas.
JAMES CARVILLE: She was up against a hurricane.
ELLIOTT: Democratic political strategist James Carville.
CARVILLE: She was on the wrong side of a hurricane, and there was nothing that she could've done differently or changed the TV ad or strategy or anything like that.
ELLIOTT: The hurricane also swept away another longtime Louisiana Democrat who was attempting a political comeback in a congressional runoff to replace Cassidy.
EDWIN EDWARDS: Turn out the lights. The party's over.
ELLIOTT: That's 87-year-old Edwin Edwards, the former four-term governor who served federal prison time for corruption. It was his first concession speech.
(SOUNDBITE OF CONCESSION SPEECH)
EDWARDS: This state has now joined the rest of the country, and we're now totally Republican. And I accept that and bow to it.
ELLIOTT: The midterms are now over. And in the U.S. Senate, Republicans will have 54 seats come January. Debbie Elliott, NPR News, New Orleans. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.