U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu said Thursday that she is not “the least bit sad” about ending her 18-year career in the Senate, after Louisiana voters overwhelmingly rejected her bid for a fourth term.
“For truly the first time in my adult life, I have felt that extraordinary peace about something that was unexpected, but most certainly is something that I accept,” Landrieu said in a farewell speech to her Senate colleagues, which was streamed online.
She added: “I know that God’s calling me to a different place. I’m not the least bit sad, and I’m not the least bit afraid.”
Republican Bill Cassidy, a Baton Rouge congressman, defeated Landrieu in Saturday’s Senate runoff by a 12-point margin, costing Democrats the last Senate seat they held in the Deep South and the last statewide elected position they held in Louisiana.
Landrieu’s speech included personal stories, highlights of her work on energy, disaster recovery and adoption — and a strong defense of her state and region as vital to the economy of the nation.
“It may not be as sexy as the West Coast or as prosperous as the East Coast, but the Gulf Coast is really worth fighting for. It’s a very special place in our country,” she said.
Landrieu didn’t say what she’ll do next after spending more than three decades in public office, as a state lawmaker, Louisiana treasurer and U.S. senator. She described her 17-year-old daughter, Mary Shannon, telling her: “‘Mom, it’s going to be a little strange. I’ve only known you as a senator.’”
Republican U.S. Sen. David Vitter helped Cassidy craft his campaign and worked hard to help defeat Landrieu.
But in the Senate on Thursday, Vitter thanked Landrieu for “her tireless service,” citing her disaster recovery and coastal restoration work, her championing of domestic energy production and her efforts to bolster Louisiana’s military installations.
“In all of this work, one thing is always crystal clear, certainly crystal clear to me, with Sen. Landrieu: Louisiana has always been first in her heart and her top motivation,” Vitter said.
In her half-hour speech, Landrieu pledged to continue her work to make adoptions easier. Her husband was adopted, and the couple adopted their two children. Choking up, she talked of thousands of children awaiting families: “We need to realize that God does not make trash.”
An ardent supporter of her state’s oil and gas industry, Landrieu urged the Senate to push for the nation’s energy independence.
She also thanked her colleagues for sending billions of dollars to Louisiana after hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Landrieu fought for the disaster recovery aid after the 2005 storms wrecked south Louisiana and left her hometown of New Orleans devastated.
“Thank you for being there for us. I know I aggravated you to death. I know I never stopped asking. But you were the only hope, because there was just no way these communities could recover,” Landrieu said.