Different factions of the Republican Party met on different sides of East Baton Rouge Parish Saturday energizing their activists to help get out the vote for their candidates in congressional and Senate elections.
In south Baton Rouge, Republicans focused on economic issues. In the northern part of the parish, the main talk was about religious concerns.
Democrat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is seeking her fourth term on Nov. 4 and faces two major Republican candidates, each with the backing of different wings of the party.
U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, is supported by most party leaders and the polls show he will likely end up in a Dec. 6 runoff with Landrieu.
But Cassidy does not have the support, at least in the November election, of all Republicans. Some conservatives fault Cassidy for supporting Democrats in the past and taking more moderate positions on some issues.
Tony Perkins, who heads the religiously conservative Family Research Council, backs Cassidy’s main Republican rival, Rob Maness of Madisonville, standing apart from what he says is pressure from party leaders wanting him to sit this one out. But Perkins responds that the retired U.S. Air Force officer is a true conservative. “Why support Democrat light?” he asked.
Under a canopy of trees in the rural part of East Baton Rouge Parish near Pride, Perkins hosted stump speeches by Maness and state Rep. Lenar Whitney, who is seeking the 6th congressional district seat. Both candidates also are backed by tea party organizations.
Even though it was not in his district, Zach Dasher, who is challenging U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, in Louisiana’s 5th congressional district, gave a speech as well.
Meanwhile, in the atrium of a south Baton Rouge office building, Herman Cain, the former GOP presidential candidate and business executive who now hosts a national radio talk show, spoke on behalf of Cassidy and also stumped for Paul Dietzel, a young Baton Rouge businessman seeking to fill the vacancy in Louisiana’s 6th congressional district created by Cassidy’s run for the Senate.
“They want you to believe that Paul and Bill can’t get elected. They want you to believe that America will become a socialist, communist country. Don’t believe that,” Cain said without specifically identifying who “they” are. But he said both Cassidy and Dietzel let conservative principles of less government, lower taxes, strong religious faith and personal responsibility guide their decisions.
Cain said Dietzel’s top campaign advisor, J Hudson, worked as his personal assistant during his run for the presidency in 2012. Hudson set up the meeting. Dietzel impressed Cain as a young man who built a successful business, then chose to do public service.
Dietzel introduced Cain to Cassidy, whom he described as a successful physician who could have just finished out his career and retired, but instead chose public service. “He’s doesn’t need the money, the fame. He’s doing it for the right reasons,” Cain said, adding that he had carefully studied Cassidy and his positions.
Cain said he came to Baton Rouge — he stayed at the same hotel as the Ole Miss football team — on his own accord to the get-out-the-vote rally and neither candidate paid him.
Getting their voters to the polls has been a focus for both parties. Earlier in the week, U.S. Rep. John Lewis, the surviving member of the ‘Big Six’ leaders from the Civil Rights era, rallied voters at Southern University and led about 75 of them to cast early ballots.
Both the Democratic and Republican rallies were attended predominantly by one race, with just a handful of whites attending the Lewis rally and about the same number of blacks attending the Cain event.
Cassidy said Landrieu is relying on the Democrats’ sophisticated turnout technology and efforts to bring enough of their voters to the polls to win without a runoff. He urged the activists to call other people every day and take them to vote. Early voting continues through Tuesday.
“Every day of early voting, find two people who would not (vote) — the woman who has three children and her husband works off shore — offer to babysit, let her go to Wal-Mart, come back home, in the meantime she has voted. The fellow down the street, mowing lawn, well, first ask him whom he’s voting for,” Cassidy said.
Picking up a theme that Cain had articulated earlier, Cassidy said the Republicans could pass the legislation already approved by the House, but blocked the Democratic leaders in the Senate. The GOP may not have enough members to sustain a veto in a GOP-controlled Senate, Cassidy said, repeating Cain’s theme, but at least they could stack those bills on the president’s desk and force him to explain why he is unwilling to sign them.
Dietzel told the crowd of about 100 supporters that a Republican victory would help make the federal government smaller and less intrusive.
‘It amazes me that we have unelected bureaucrats up in Washington with the power to steal ideas, kill innovation and destroy opportunity,” Dietzel said. “But there are people out there that seriously believe that if the government could just a little bit more, they could solve all of our problems.”
Dietzel then offered to drive people to the State Archives building to go vote early.
About 40 miles northeast, Perkins and the Family Research Council served jambalaya at a “dinner on the grounds” atmosphere and let candidates that the national conservative Christian lobbying group’s political action committee supports give speeches in front of a giant blue billboard outlining the group’s beliefs, such as “1 Man + 1 Woman = Marriage”, printed in bold, two-foot high lettering.
Perkins, too, stressed that voter turnout was key to winning the elections. “Take somebody to the polls,” he said.
“There is great pressure to do the unprincipled thing and get out of this race, great pressure,” Maness said. “But we have ‘right’ on our side. We have ‘resolve’ on our side. We are Americans and we will fight for principle before we fight for anything else … This isn’t about winning. This is about values. It’s about having someone in that seat who is actually one of us and out here talking about those values.”
Dasher, who is running the 5th district, described those values as candidates who are afraid to apply their religious beliefs to policy.
“This experiment that we call the United States is predicated on the fact that man is made in the image of almighty God. We need folks in Washington, D.C., who will not be afraid to stand up and unabashedly say that.” Dasher said. “The things I am saying are not new, they’re ‘old idea’. They’re just not being talked about in Washington anymore and as a result we’re seeing our culture being washed away.”
Whitney, who is running in the 6th congressional district, agreed: “Our nation is fading away and if we don’t do something immediately those principles and values will slip away from us. Congress has compromised, conceded and negotiated away our bedrock principles this nation was founded on.”
The event also included stars from cable television reality program “19 Kids & Counting.” The mother, Michelle Duggar, had two of her younger children recite from memory parts of the sixth chapter of the Bible’s Book of Ephesians, which extols Christians to put on armor and stand firm against the authorities and powers of this dark world.
(The eldest Duggar son works for Perkins’ group. Dasher also is connected to Christian-oriented reality television, but his cousins from “Duck Dynasty” were attending tailgates at LSU.)
Standing to the side after his speech, Maness said that despite polls that say he will not get enough votes to make the runoff, he believed he would be the leading Republican candidate on Nov. 4. If it doesn’t work out as planned, Maness said, he would support the Republican candidate in the runoff, though he could not be coaxed into saying Cassidy’s name.
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