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Louisianas three days of general election qualifying opened Wednesday with a couple of surprising moves in the battleground Baton Rouge 6th district.
First, failed special election candidate Woody Jenkins (R) announced that he would not run again this fall, leaving state Sen. Bill Cassidy as the GOP frontrunner against newly elected Rep. Don Cazayoux (D).
On the other side of the aisle, state Rep. Michael Jackson who lost the Democratic special election runoff to Cazayoux in the spring said Wednesday that he expects to file for the general election by Friday and that he is very likely going to run as an Independent.
Both announcements are sure to excite Republicans as they fight to win back a once-safe GOP seat that they lost in a May special election. And there could be a harbinger of key developments to come today and Friday in other potentially competitive Louisiana House districts.
Jenkins, a former state Representative, was defeated by Cazayoux in the second of three especially painful special election losses for the House GOP this spring. Since that election, national Republican leaders have referred to Jenkins as a flawed candidate, and party officials in Washington, D.C., had been skeptical about his chances of defeating Cazayoux in a fall rematch despite the fact that he would likely do well again in the Republican primary.
From the minute he lost to Cazayoux, Jenkins, who was also the GOP nominee in the 1996 U.S. Senate race, had been planning to run again in the fall.
But Jenkins said Wednesday morning that though he expected he could win a primary against Cassidy, who announced his intention to run in June, it could have gotten divisive.
Cassidy wasnt a candidate during the spring special election, but he appears to be the candidate that state party officials, including popular Gov. Bobby Jindal (R), are lining up behind.
Jenkins said that after much prayer, he made his decision to skip the race on Tuesday.
Its a difficult year for Republicans and its very important that were united, he said.
A week after Cassidy announced his intention to run, businesswoman Laurinda Calongne (R), who lost the 6th district special election primary to Jenkins in April, announced that she would not be a candidate again in the fall.
Jenkins said Wednesday that though qualifying is still open and hes not yet prepared to give his official endorsement, I think Cassidy probably is going to be the only candidate and he will be a good candidate. ... Its just important that we all pull together to put our candidate over the top. We cant be fighting each other and expect to win in these kinds of districts.
Meanwhile, Jacksons decision to enter the race could create a drain on Cazayouxs base of support.
Cassidy and Cazayoux are both white, and if Jackson were to run, he would be the lone black candidate in a district that is 33 percent black.
Jackson, the vice chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, said hes fully aware that some Republicans want him in the race and that Democratic leaders want him on the sidelines.