Incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) and Republican challenger Rob Maness attacked no-show Republican Representative Bill Cassidy (R-LA) as much as they criticized each other at the first debate in the Louisiana U.S. Senate race held Thursday night at Dillard University.
Most polls show Landrieu and Cassidy neck and neck in this November’s “jungle primary,” with Maness a distant third.
Under Louisiana election law, if no candidate receives 50% plus one of the vote in the “jungle primary,” the top two finishers will face each other in a run-off election in December.
Landrieu repeatedly called Cassidy “the guy who’s not here,” adding that “[h]e’s hiding behind millions of dollars in bogus ads.”
“If you are not man enough or strong enough to come to debates, how in heavens are you going to be strong enough to represent the citizens of Louisiana that deserve strength and tenacity and determination?” she asked rhetorically.
“Our opponent that is not here tonight,” Landrieu continued, “I used to think he was kind of afraid of me because I can be a little tough at times,” said Landrieu, a Democrat. “He’s afraid of the people of our state.”
Maness, who had previously criticized Cassidy for not participating in the debates and other forums, highlighted their policy differences more than Cassidy’s absence. Supporters of Maness, however, called Cassidy a “ducker” and blew duck calls as they waited for the debate to begin.
Landrieu and Maness sparred over Obamacare and illegal immigration, though Landrieu made a point of expressing her gratitude to Maness, a retired Air Force colonel, for his service to the country. Strategically, Landrieu benefits from a strong performance by Maness in the “jungle primary,” since every new vote for Maness probably is taken from Cassidy and inches Landrieu towards the magical “no run-off” 50%.
Landrieu asserted, “[t]he Affordable Care Act is not perfect, but it is working in many important ways.”
Maness, appearing in his first political debate ever, countered, “Obamacare is an abomination. One of my top priorities,” he added,”is not to repeal or defund it, but pull it out by the roots because it’s a job killer.”
On immigration, Landrieu, who voted for the 2013 “Gang of Eight” immigration reform bill many conservatives have characterized as pro-amnesty, said that “[i]t’s important that we have a legal pathway to citizenship.”
Maness, who has signed the FAIR pledge opposing amnesty, hit back, noting that his opposition was based on the fact that “I respect American citizens and their need for jobs.”
Maness also took advantage of Cassidy’s absence by making a claim that Cassidy would almost certainly have disputed had he been in attendance. “Both of my opponents support either amnesty for illegal aliens or a pathway to citizenship for illegal aliens,” he said.
Cassidy, who chose to attend his own campaign event in Alexandria instead of the debate, is scheduled to participate in a debate with both Landrieu and Maness that will be broadcast live on public television next week.