A University of New Orleans poll unveiled Monday shows incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu leading Terrell 44 percent to 43 percent, a statistical dead heat. Terrell has surged toward a possible victory since the Nov. 5 election forced the two candidates into a runoff.
In the final debate of the campaign Monday night Terrell stayed on the offensive, saying Landrieu had lost touch with the values of Louisianans. Terrell accused Landrieu of voting to approve the controversial “morning after” or “abortion” pill. Landrieu called the assertion a “bold face lie,” according to the New Orleans Times Picayune. Landrieu said her vote was to allow states to decide whether to ban the pill, and said she supports Louisiana’s decision to impose such a ban.
During the debate, Landrieu blasted Republicans for a negative campaign and for running “attack ads.” Terrell countered that the ads merely point to Landrieu’s record.
Both candidates have tried to capitalize on Mr. Bush’s popularity.
Landrieu has said that she will support the president on important issues such as national security, but will not be a rubber stamp for the administration. Landrieu said Terell will not stand up for Louisianans.
Terrell, however, countered that she would also vote her conscience.
“He [the president] will know when Suzie Terrell doesn’t agree. I’m going to stand firm and strong for Louisiana and I’m going to stand firm and strong when it’s good for the country,” Terrell said, according to the Associated Press.
The national Republican party has supported Terrell from the beginning, when the head of the Republican Senate campaign committee, Sen. Bill Frist, chose Terrell from a wide open field of candidates spawned by Louisiana’s unique “open primary” law.
The law stipulates that members of all parties must run in the general election and that if no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the vote, the two top vote-getters compete in a runoff.
Frist chose to throw the support of the national party behind Terrell, despite objections from Gov. Mike Foster who supported U.S. Congressman John Cooksey.
By the general election, incumbent Landrieu was competing against eight other candidates. She earned 46 percent of the vote while Terrell grabbed second place with 27 percent.
After Republican victories on Nov. 5, the party seemed to turn its entire attention south. Heavy-hitters such as former President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Senator-elect Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina, and new Senate Majority leader Trent Lott visited the state on Terrell’s behalf. Landrieu has called the parade of popular Republicans “overkill.”
“I have no qualms about him [the president] coming. I know he represents his party and that’s fine, but I represent the state of Louisiana,” Landrieu said, according to the AP.
President Bush will make campaign stops in Shreveport and is scheduled to host a fundraiser in New Orleans Tuesday, events that are expected to be a major boon to the Terrell campaign.
The candidates for U.S. Senate in Louisiana will appear on the ballot along with those for the 5th District U.S. House race. Democrat Rodney Alexander and Republican Lee Fletcher will face each other in a runoff to win Cooksey’s former seat.