La. Holds Special Election To Replace Republican The retirement of veteran Republican Richard H. Baker has forced a special election that will be held Saturday. And it's been a nasty campaign.
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La. Holds Special Election To Replace Republican

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La. Holds Special Election To Replace Republican

La. Holds Special Election To Replace Republican

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Now to election news in America, beyond the presidential race. Democrats are hoping to extend their majority in Congress with the help of a Louisiana House seat. It's a seat that's been held by Republicans for more than three decades. This Saturday, voters will choose a replacement for Congressman Richard Baker who resigned to become a lobbyist.

NPR's Jeff Brady has our story.

JEFF BRADY: The Sixth Congressional District in Louisiana includes the state's capital, Baton Rouge. And while the majority of voters are registered Democrats, they're pretty conservative.

Mr. JOHN MAGINNIS (Publisher, "La Politics Weekly"): Most Democrats in this district wouldn't be a Democrat in Connecticut, they'd be a Republican.

BRADY: John Maginnis publishes a newsletter called La Politics Weekly and he says this has been a tough district for Democrats to win. That's because they need to hang on to their liberal base - 30 percent of the district is black - and they need to attract the white Democrats who are mostly conservative and used to voting Republican.

At a recent debate, Democrat Don Cazayoux was pitching his own conservative side.

State Representative DON CAZAYOUX (Democrat, Louisiana): I share the values of Louisiana. I'm pro-life, a pro-Second Amendment, pro-family.

BRADY: Cazayoux also said he supports a proposed gas tax holiday by the presumptive Republican nominee for president.

State Representative CAZAYOUX: We also need to look at the tax break that's being proposed by John McCain. I think the cuts could provide some immediate relief.

BRADY: Cazayoux's Republican opponent Woody Jenkins has lost three bids for the U.S. Senate, including a bitterly contested race in 1996 against Senator Mary Landrieu. Jenkins has positioned himself as a conservative who wants to reduce taxes, keep out illegal immigrants and protect traditional values. He spent much of the recent debate talking, not about his opponent Cazayoux, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

State Representative WOODY JENKINS (Republican, Louisiana): We must remove Nancy Pelosi as speaker of the house. Voting with Pelosi… …get rid of Nancy Pelosi… …someone like Nancy Pelosi… …Nancy Pelosi has brought… …Nancy Pelosi said this…

BRADY: Pelosi represents a San Francisco district that's much more liberal than this one in Louisiana. Jenkins says the contest here is getting so much attention because:

State Representative JENKINS: It's a very important race that will affect our country. Because it's about who will control the Congress of the United States in the years ahead.

BRADY: So, he's arguing that a vote for Cazayoux is a vote for Nancy Pelosi. The National Republican Congressional Committee has reinforced that message.

(Soundbite of ad)

Unidentified Man: The Obama-Pelosi team needs Don Cazayoux to win this special election. See, Cazayoux will be a vote for their agenda…

BRADY: Republicans are fighting hard to hold this seat after losing former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's Illinois seat to a Democrat in March. Complicating matters for the GOP, a former Republican, Ashley Casey, has entered the race as an Independent and she says she won't to be answerable to either party. Whoever wins will replace 11-term Republican Richard Baker, who now works as a lobbyist for hedge fund managers.

La Politics Weekly publisher John Maginnis says that career change didn't go over well in Louisiana

Mr. MAGINNIS: And that's created some resentment from people that these guys're going to be cashing in on their service. So you heard all three candidates promise not be lobbyists when they finished their service in Congress.

BRADY: A recent poll showed Cazayoux leading the race. He'd raised nearly twice as much money as Jenkins. He also has the backing of former Democratic Senator John Breaux. Jenkins had to recover from a bruising primary where his past ties to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke became an issue. But his campaign was bolstered by the endorsement of Louisiana's popular new Governor Bobby Jindal, a Republican and an Asian-American. Turnout in tomorrow's vote is expected to be unusually high.

Jeff Brady, NPR News, New Orleans.

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