U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise has spent recent weeks in an aggressive campaign mode – making regular television appearances, appearing at 16 fundraising events in August alone and spending more money on his re-election campaign than any other Congressional candidate in Louisiana this cycle.
It's not that the Jefferson Republican, who is the highest-ranking and longest-serving member of Louisiana's delegation, is particularly vulnerable a year after narrowly surviving a mass shooting during a morning baseball practice. But Scalise is working overtime during a crucial period for House Republicans, as control of the chamber hangs in the balance, with forecasters predicting a Democratic takeover increasingly likely as the mid-term elections approach.
And a successful push to maintain a GOP majority could ultimately propel Scalise further up the leadership ranks.
"For someone who wants to move up the leadership ladder, it does behoove them to campaign for other candidates," said Christine Day, a political science professor at the University of New Orleans.
Scalise, 52, is seen as a clear favorite in his re-election to Louisiana's 1st Congressional District, which Scalise has represented since 2008. The election is Nov. 6, with a Dec. 8 runoff if no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote.
"He's quite an entrenched incumbent, and it's a deeply Republican district," Day said. "I think he's going to be very hard to unseat."
The Louisiana Democratic Party has endorsed Tammy Savoie, a retired Air Force colonel and political newcomer, in the race against Scalise. Other candidates on the ballot include Democrats Jim Francis and Lee Ann Dugas, Libertarian Howard Kearney and independent Frederick Jones.
Savoie's candidacy could be counted among a national trend that has seen a record number of women run for the U.S. House this year, according to an analysis of all states from the Associated Press.
Savoie's campaign platform – which focuses heavily on themes of education, paid family leave, workplace equality and health care, including the progressive-driven Medicare for All proposal – also closely mirrors the upswing in progressive female candidates in other states.
"Women are at a point where they are so frustrated and so tired of not being represented," Savoie said.
But she said she's also seen a similar sentiment among men who want to see more women in public service. On a recent outing at a farmer's market in St. Tammany Parish, Savoie said an older man approached her to pledge his support.
"He said, 'I'm sick of these men, I'm voting for all females,'" Savoie said. "He just shook his head and said he was disgusted."
"I'm feeling it from a lot of people," she added.
Savoie retired from the Air Force just months before Donald Trump was elected in 2016. She began working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, but said she felt a calling to run for Congress.
"I just felt like I had to do something," Savoie said. "I need to serve the constitution again, serve the country again."
Savoie said she knows it would be an "understatement" to say Scalise has advantages in the election. He has won more than two-thirds of the votes in each of his five successful Congressional races.
But political experts have found that a key demographic – women, particularly in suburbs – may be more open to swinging Democratic and play a bigger role in the mid-term elections.
Louisiana's beefing up its efforts to combat the opioid epidemic, thanks to a nearly $30 million boost from the federal government.
"Tammy Savoie is running at probably the best time for a woman to be running in that district," Day said.
Other states have seen surprising victories among Democratic outsider candidates, including among female progressives that share positions with Savoie. But Savoie's most recent campaign finance report shows her fundraising hasn't topped $50,000. Scalise has raised $4.2 million and has been boosted by more than $75,000 in outside spending in support of his campaign. That doesn't even include millions more that he has raised toward other funds that back Republican House candidates, including the Scalise Leadership Fund, Scalise's Eye of the Tiger leadership PAC, the National Republican Congressional Committee's general account and the NRCC's building and legal funds.
Scalise attended 16 fundraising events across nine states in support of two dozen Republican members in the month of August alone, including an event with Vice President Mike Pence in New Orleans that raised $1.4 million.
“Given the high stakes of the upcoming midterm elections, I’m committed to doing whatever I can to ensure that our members and candidates have the resources they need,” Scalise said. “Nothing is more important than continuing to get our economy back on track and working with President Trump to deliver on the promises we’ve made to the American people."
U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise faced his three Democratic challengers this week in the first and thus far only debate of the fall congressional elect…
Scalise, who was critically wounded when a gunman opened fire on Republicans as they practiced for an annual charity baseball game last year, has made campaign stops in Georgia, Florida, Michigan, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Kansas and New York to stump for Republican causes and candidates, including three-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Andy Barr, of Kentucky, and five-term incumbent U.S. Rep. Kevin Yoder, of Kansas.
Both Barr and Yoder are locked in tight races against female Democratic challengers who are seeking public office for the first time. http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/2018-house/
"I am committed to ensuring that we maintain our House majority so we can keep building on this success, and to prevent Nancy Pelosi from becoming speaker again and moving her agenda to reverse the tax cuts and abolish ICE," Scalise said.
Scalise's effort to maintain the Republican majority in the House could also help him in the chamber's inevitable GOP leadership shuffle.
"Of course, you'd like to enlarge the Republican majority in the House or at least prevent the Democrats from taking the majority, but it's also a way to campaign for votes for himself in the party leadership," Day said.
Scalise was elected by his House colleagues to serve as Majority Whip in 2014. House leaders are expected to help elect members of their party to keep their ranks strong in Congress.
During a reshuffling of House leadership the following year, Scalise was considered a favorite to advance to Majority Leader – ranking second only to the House Speaker – until Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan took on the House Speaker's post.
Ryan did not seek re-election this year, which means that Republicans will be due for another re-shuffling next year. There has been some speculation that Scalise could be boosted to the top of Republican leadership – whether it holds the minority or majority in the chamber.
"He's very powerful, but what has that power gotten Louisiana?" Savoie said. "Absolutely nothing – we've benefited in no way shape or form from his power."
Scalise has positioned himself as a key ally of President Donald Trump, who has frequently spoken favorably in public about Scalise.
Savoie pointed to Scalise's support of the Trump administration's trade policies that economists predict will adversely impact industries in Louisiana more than any other state.
"It's not just the predictable loss of jobs," Savoie said. "All of the higher prices that we are going to see for goods and services."
Savoie is aggressively campaigning on a grassroots level. Appearances at breakfast groups in the mornings; meet-and-greets and other gatherings in supporters homes in the afternoons; regular volunteer-driven call banks and door-to-door neighborhood sweeps.
"It's a well-run campaign. We get up in the morning and we have our goals set for the day," Savoie said. "I have to say it's going really well."