U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Baton Rouge, won his first-ever bid for re-election Tuesday night, winning more than 50 percent of the vote in a primary election in which he was challenged by 14 other candidates including five Democrats and another Republican.
During a victory speech in Baton Rouge, Cassidy told his supporters, “My promise to you and the folks watching is that I will continue to do my best to work for the people of this nation, to work for the people of this state, and make this state and nation better for now, better for us, and better for every American that comes in the future.”
With almost all the state’s Election Day ballots counted and 58 of the state’s 64 parishes reporting early and absentee votes, Cassidy had 63 percent of the votes. His next closest competitor was Adrian Perkins, a first-term mayor of Shreveport and the pick of the Louisiana Democratic Party.
Cassidy’s victory gives Republicans a big win on a day that began with them fighting to hold on to the Senate. Democrats entered the day with most political prognosticators expecting the party to take the Senate to hold onto House and win the White House.
The results of the presidential race remained unclear at 10 p.m. Tuesday.
Cassidy, a gastroenterologist who spent his medical career working in the Charity Hospital System in Baton Rouge, won the seat in 2014, keeping Mary Landrieu, a New Orleans Democrat, from winning her fourth term in office.
Since then, he has become an outspoken advocate for protecting the state’s coast and protecting the offshore oil-and-gas royalties that Louisiana officials say are critical to counteracting rising sea levels and coastal erosion. Cassidy led an unsuccessful fight this year against the Great American Outdoors Act, which permanently funds the Land and Water Conservation Fund and pays for maintenance projects at national parks with off-shore drilling revenue that the Gulf States see as rightfully theirs.
Perhaps Cassidy’s biggest accomplishment in the Senate has been mental health legislation that was praised by mental health advocates and became part of 2016’s 21st Century Cures Act.
Tuesday’s election followed a relatively quiet campaign. Perkins, who was inaugurated as Shreveport mayor on Dec. 29, 2018, didn’t officially enter the race until July, and there were no debates or public forums during which the candidates could air out their differences, and none where the candidates appeared together. Ty Bofferding, Cassidy’s campaign spokesperson, told multiple news outlets that the incumbent was only willing to participate in forums or debates that were open to all 14 candidates.
According to the Associated Press, the 2020 primary was the first U.S. Senate competition without the major contenders debating since 1988.
Perkins criticized the incumbent for not supporting a continuation of the $600 in added unemployment benefits that Americans across the country were receiving until (the end of July ). “If I was in the Senate, I could make sure that the families that have lost their jobs and they need unemployment benefits to make it whole through this, that they could get the relief that they need,” Perkins said. “I would never be a senator that would vote against those unemployment benefits, I would never be a senator, that would watch (an eviction moratorium) go away, and make people pay their rent and be evicted … at the same time when the government is telling them to stay at home and at the same time we know that our economy has been wrecked. And (when) people through no fault of their own have lost their jobs.”
During the final days of the race, Cassidy worked hard to attack Demcoratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and associate himself with President Donald Trump. Cassidy said Biden would kill oil and gas jobs in the state. At the same time, Perkins attacked Cassidy for his vote in 2017 to end the Affordable Care Act. That landmark legislation was preserved when the late Sen. John McCain refused to vote to kill it.
In the state’s other federal elections, all five U.S. Representatives in Louisiana who were running for re-election breezed to victory Tuesday night. Steve Scalise, in the First Congressional District; Cedric Richmond, in the Second Congressional District; Clay Higgins in the Third Congressional District; Mike Johnson, in the Fourth Congressional District and Garrett Graves in the Sixth Congressional District all won in land slides.
No incumbent was on the ballot in the Fifth Congressional District. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, announced his retirement from Congress in February. Luke Letlow, a Republican who served as Abraham’s chief of staff, had 33 percent of the vote at 11 p.m., securing his place in a December run-off. In second place was fellow Republican Lance Harris, a state representative from Alexandria with 17 percent of the vote. With all precincts reporting, Democrat Sandra “Candy” Christophe came up 456 votes short of Harris.
Reporter JC Canicosa contributed to this report.