Landrieu Hangs on to Louisiana Senate Seat

By Scott Hogenson | July 7, 2008 | 8:29 PM EDT

( - Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu was reelected to a second term in the Senate Saturday, defeating Republican Suzanne Terrell 51-49 in a special runoff election.

Landrieu's victory dashed Republican hopes for growing its newly acquired Senate majority. When the 108th Congress convenes next month, the GOP will have an effective majority of two votes, with the 51 seats in Republican hands and 48 held by Democrats. The Senate's lone independent, former Republican Sen. Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.), caucuses with the Democrats.

Some Democrats feared Landrieu's moderate voting record in the last Congress might hurt her reelection chances by failing to energize her base.

Landrieu campaigned in part on having sided with President Bush in approximately 70 percent of her congressional votes, including the president's tax relief plan and the Iraq resolution, two Bush initiatives that brought harsh criticism from the Democratic leadership.

Appearing before supporters who chanted "six more years," Landrieu quoted scripture and declared, "The Democratic Party is alive and well and united."

"My feet are tired, but my soul is inspired," said Landrieu. "Tonight, we stood together across racial lines, across geographic lines."

Landrieu was forced into the Dec. 7 runoff after capturing 46 percent of the vote in the Nov. 5 midterm election. Louisiana state law requires a runoff if no candidate receives 50 percent of the vote or more.

But Terrell, the state's elections commissioner, had a more difficult task facing her after the Nov. 5 election, in which she won only 27 percent of the vote. Adding to those difficulties is the fact that registered Democrats outnumber Republicans in Louisiana by a three-to-one margin.

"We are coming together and we will come together," Terrell said in her concession speech, which she delivered about 11:15 p.m. EST.

Saturday's victory by Landrieu came after a full day of vigorous campaigning by both candidates, who reached out to voters up until Louisiana polls closed at 8:00 p.m. CST, and her reelection continues for her a political career that began wither her election to the Louisiana statehouse in 1979.

Not only does Landrieu's victory give a boost to the Democratic Party after faring poorly in the midterm congressional elections last month, Terrell's defeat is also something of a black eye for the GOP, which sent in the party's top-ranking Republicans to campaign for Terrell.

President Bush made a swing through the state last week, as did Vice President Dick Cheney. The GOP also launched a 72-hour telephone blitz of recorded messages to Louisiana voters by a variety of Republican and conservative notables.

Landrieu's reelection Saturday was less dramatic than her first win six years ago, when she defeated Republican Woody Jenkins by a mere 6,000 votes in an election whose results were strongly contested by Jenkins.

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