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Player of the Week: Don Cazayoux

Don Cazayoux isn't in Congress yet. But the Louisiana state House member is trying his best to get here, running as the Democratic nominee in the May 3 contest to succeed resigned Rep. Richard Baker (R) in the Bayou State's 6th district. The race between Cazayoux and ex-state Rep. Woody Jenkins (R) has grown unexpectedly tight, with Cazayoux leading in multiple surveys despite the district's clear GOP tilt.

But what makes Cazayoux the Player of the Week? It's not so much about anything he's done in the last seven days, but rather about events that have occurred in nearby Mississippi and - in a more tangential way - in the Democratic presidential primary.

On Tuesday, Democrats came within a percentage point of stealing Mississippi's 1st district seat away in a special election to replace Roger Wicker, who has been appointed to the Senate. Prentiss County Chancery Clerk Travis Childers (D) beat Southaven Mayor Greg Davis (R), 49 percent to 46 percent, but since neither man reached 50 percent they will proceed to a May 13 runoff. Like Louisiana's 6th, this Mississippi district is decidedly Republican. President Bush won it by 25 points in 2004 (he won the Louisiana seat by 19 points).

For lack of a more graceful term, Republicans are freaking out right now. The cash-strapped National Republican Congressional Committee has to pour more resources into the Mississippi race to avoid a repeat of the party's embarrassing loss last month in Illinois. And the closeness of the Mississippi race makes the Cazayoux-Jenkins battle even more important.

When journalists write "trend" stories, they look for groups of three. Three makes a "pattern." So if the GOP loses special elections in Illinois, Mississippi AND Louisiana, you can expect to see a blitz of stories about the potential "Democratic wave" and how seemingly-safe GOP seats all over the map are about to come into play.

All that means Cazayoux is Enemy No. 1 for Republicans right now. The NRCC has been hitting him every day for weeks on a variety of issues, and the conservative group Freedom's Watch has been running TV ads criticizing Cazayoux for his positions on taxes and health care (one ad has prompted the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to file a complaint with the Federal Election Commission).

A different Freedom's Watch ad brings us to the other interesting angle in this Louisiana race -- the GOP's effort to tie Cazayoux, who is positioning himself as a conservative, to Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Speaking of health care, the ad says, "Where does Don Cazayoux stand? With Barack Obama for a big government scheme."

Will this tactic work? Operatives in both parties are waiting to find out. If Cazayoux loses, supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will add another plank to their argument that Obama is unelectable in November because he can't win in conservative and rural districts. If Cazayoux wins, Obama forces can say those attacks just won't work. Either way, this contest is important in a lot more places than just Louisiana.

By Ben Pershing  |  April 25, 2008; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  2008 Campaign , Player of the Week  
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Comments

"For lack of a more graceful term, "Republicans are freaking out right now." Wait until November. The Republicans have systematically (and in some cases, criminally) destroyed the American Economy, the environment, foreign policy, the Constitution, etc. In short, the Republicans are the root cause of everything that is wrong with America today. The Voters know it. Former Republicans are embarrassed and ashamed and will either stay home or vote for Obama. Republicans should be "freaking out" because they're heading for 40 years in the political wilderness for worshiping false idols.

Posted by: thebob.bob | April 25, 2008 4:28 PM | Report abuse

I think the La. Congression race is more of a commentary of the quality of Woody Jenkins as a considered a nutjob rather than indicative of a democratic takeover. Even many hard core Republicans have been supporting Cazayoux rather than Jenkins because of Jenkins' craziness and Cazayoux being a generally nice guy with good intentions.

Posted by: Megan | April 26, 2008 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Anybody standing with Barrack Hussein Obama is in big trouble right now. Voters need help with health care and Clinton has some solutions. McCain has none.

Posted by: Grace | April 29, 2008 10:35 AM | Report abuse

A vote for that guy in La. is a vote for more taxes, so if that is your bag, vote for that cagion, and watch those dollars fly out of your pocket books and wallets.I hope you have a good nest egg built up, with the democrat price raise on gas and bread and eggs. You will be eating more crayfish!, so get ready.

Posted by: Elmer | April 29, 2008 12:05 PM | Report abuse

Elmer,

I think you're overlooking the Republican war, which is the "elephant" in the room no one seems to mention when discussing gas (both the military use of it and the disturbance in the global market) and the fact that all goods are transported with it. The war has left us with a huge deficit to pay off, and that "trickles down" in many ways to gas, bread and eggs, and especially taxes. Who do you think has to pay that bill? Do you run your personal finances that way? Run up debt and refuse to increase payments?

I'm a Louisiana citizen, crawfish are great, we love 'em.

Cazayoux is the only sane option in this race. Jenkins (who was a Democrat back when it suited his interests) has a very bad rep locally, and few haven't seen that he's a bit of a nut.

When the rest of the country does badly, Louisiana does okay (oil & natural gas industries) so the Bush administration's aftermath will probably be a shot in the arm to us.

most people here don't complain about taxes anymore, either... we just want roads that don't crumble under our wheels anymore.


... and it's "Cajun," a colloquialism of "Acadian."

Posted by: Leo | April 29, 2008 5:34 PM | Report abuse

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