Cazayoux Gets ‘No Party’ Foe

Posted July 11, 2008 at 6:31pm

Louisiana’s three days of general election qualifying ended Friday with some good news and some bad news for Democrats looking to make gains in the Bayou State this cycle.

First, in what can only be viewed as a major blow to newly elected Rep. Don Cazayoux (D), state Rep. Michael Jackson filed as a “no party” candidate for the fall general election.

Cazayoux was already in for a tough race in the Baton Rouge-based 6th district against state Sen. Bill Cassidy (R), whom GOP party leaders have united behind, but Jackson’s presence in the general election is sure to eat into Cazayoux’s 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 is well-known in the district and lost a special election primary runoff to Cazayoux this spring. Since then, Jackson has been edging toward making an Independent bid for the seat in November, which he said would be the best way to avoid another expensive primary matchup against Cazayoux.

Cazayoux is already receiving strong financial support from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for his general election bid. After winning his special election, Cazayoux was quickly added to the DCCC’s “Frontline” program, which raises money for vulnerable incumbents. According to a document obtained by Roll Call last week, the DCCC has spent $723,000 reserving broadcast television time in the district.

After Jackson filed on Friday, the DCCC and Louisiana Democratic Party quickly rushed out statements expressing their support and confidence in Cazayoux’s reelection chances. But with the demographics of the district and Jackson saying that he’ll campaign on a Democratic message despite his Independent label, Republicans on Capitol Hill said Friday that they were now even more excited about their own chances of regaining a seat that, before the special election, had been considered safely in the GOP column.

The good news for Democrats on Friday came in the open 4th district seat of retiring Rep. Jim McCrery (R), where the party avoided a situation similar to what they now face with Jackson.

In that contest, party leaders have already gotten behind Paul Carmouche, a well-known local prosecutor. Carmouche has been added to the DCCC’s “Red to Blue” fundraising and infrastructure program and is hoping to gain the support of the Blue Dog Coalition of fiscally conservative Democrats.

But it had been rumored that well-known state Sen. Lydia Jackson (D) was considering running in the Democratic primary or in the general election as an Independent.

Lydia Jackson, who is black, was elected to her Shreveport-based state Senate seat in 2003 and would have been considered a formidable opponent to Carmouche in a district that is 33 percent black.

But Lydia Jackson passed on the race.

“It was something I considered,” she said on Friday. “Looking at it strategically, I think my best shot in this race would be to run as an Independent, but I’m a Democrat and a proud supporter of the head of the ticket, and I couldn’t bring myself to do what was politically expedient when it wasn’t consistent with my principles.”

Though Lydia Jackson isn’t in the race, Carmouche will face three other Democrats in the Sept. 6 primary. And though the Republican field in the 4th is also crowded, the national party and McCrery are backing former Bossier Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Thompson (R).

Elsewhere around Louisiana, indicted Rep. William Jefferson (D) picked up seven Democratic primary challengers who are hoping to keep him from winning his 10th term. The frontrunners in that field are State Rep. Cedric Richmond and Jefferson Parish Councilmember Byron Lee and Kenya Smith, a former top adviser to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin.

Meanwhile, Reps. Rodney Alexander (R) and Charlie Melancon (D) didn’t pick up any opposition from the other party in their districts, though Alexander picked up a primary challenger in Andrew Clack, a technical-support worker for a farm chemical retailer.

And in the closely watched Senate race, Republican state Treasurer John Kennedy picked up a primary challenger in his run against two-term Sen. Mary Landrieu. Businessman and first-time candidate Jacques Boudreaux of Baton Rouge filed on Friday.