Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Last Senate Race, Decided

As expected, Republicans had an easy time winning last night's Senate run-off in Louisiana, where Republican John Kennedy (there's some irony for you) dispatched Democrat Foster Campbell by 20 points, keeping retiring Sen. Diaper Dave Vitter's seat for the GOP.

A five-time elected state treasurer, Kennedy rode Louisiana's inexorable bend toward the Republican party and the popularity of President-elect Donald Trumpto win the elected post he has coveted for much of his public career.

Kennedy, 65, will join an emboldened Republican Party in Washington. The GOP kept its majority in the House and control of the Senate -- Kennedy's addition increased that lead to 52-48. Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and GOP congressional leaders have vowed to pursue an aggressive agenda on Day One.

The results confirmed Kennedy's dominance despite Campbell's attracting a late-inning surge of donations from Democrats distraught over Trump's surprising Nov. 8 victory. After raising few outside funds for much of the campaign, the 69-year-old public service commissioner brought in more than $2.5 million in individual donations during the weeks just before and after the presidential election.

"We did everything humanly possible," Campbell said in his concession speech. "We knew going into this race that it was going to be tough."

Kennedy had tried for a Senate seat twice before, falling to Vitter in 2004 as a Democrat and to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., in 2008 as a Republican.

But this was his time. Kennedy led the race from the beginning and outlasted 23 rivals, including two well-financed Republican congressmen and two formidable Democrats, to win a quarter of the votes in the November primary.

U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, and John Fleming, R-Minden, endorsed Kennedy after their losses. New Orleans lawyer Caroline Fayard, the other top Democrat in the field, gave reluctant support to Campbell after a bruising primary battle.

Kennedy embraced Trump's winning strategy of anti-Washington rhetoric, adding his own twang and homespun folksiness to its delivery, and coasted to a victory in the final four weeks.

Kennedy will take his oath of office in January just as Trump completes his move into the White House.

"I'm already working with John to ensure a smooth transition to the Senate, where I know he'll hit the ground running," Vitter said.

It still means Republicans don't have too much of a margin of error, but if Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp or Joe Manchin leave to join the Trump administration, it's possible that Republicans could be right back to 54 seats in 2017, and most likely Trump's agenda will pass without incident.

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