Mary L. Landrieu, the last Deep South Democrat in the United States Senate, was defeated in a runoff election here Saturday by Bill Cassidy, a Republican congressman who incessantly attacked the incumbent for her support of President Obama.
With Mr. Cassidy’s victory in what had been the last undecided Senate race of the midterm elections, the Republicans gained a total of nine Senate seats, giving them 54 senators and firm control of the upper chamber when the 114th Congress convenes in January.
For Democrats, Saturday’s outcome was yet another sobering reminder of their party’s declining prospects in the South, a region they dominated for much of the 20th century. Ms. Landrieu was the last statewide elected Democrat in Louisiana, and Mr. Cassidy will join a fellow Louisiana Republican, David Vitter, in the Senate, making it the first time in 138 years that a Democrat from the state has not sat in the Senate.
Speaking to supporters at the Crowne Plaza Hotel here, Mr. Cassidy said, “This victory happened because people in Louisiana voted for a government which serves us but does not tell us what to do. Thank y’all.”
Even though Ms. Landrieu narrowly edged out Mr. Cassidy in a multicandidate primary in November, his victory was widely expected. A second conservative candidate with a significant following, Rob Maness, ran a strong third in the primary, and subsequently endorsed Mr. Cassidy.
As in much of the South, Louisiana has seen many white Democrats defect to the Republican Party. Compounding Democrats’ problems was Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which forced roughly 125,000 reliably Democratic voters to permanently relocate to other states.
Mr. Cassidy, 57, is an associate professor of medicine at Louisiana State University who joined the House of Representatives in 2009. He closely followed the Republicans’ overall strategy this year of nationalizing congressional races and linking Democrats to President Obama. Mr. Cassidy’s campaign and the outside groups supporting it regularly noted that Ms. Landrieu had voted with Mr. Obama 97 percent of the time.
SOURCE: RICHARD FAUSSET
The New York Times