- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 3, 2002

MONROE, La. In last night's Louisiana Senate debate, incumbent Democrat Mary L. Landrieu criticized help that her opponent was receiving from a series of national Republican figures, including a visit earlier in the day from former President George Bush.
In the debate televised statewide, Mrs. Landrieu said the visits of outsiders to stump for Republican Suzanne Haik Terrell "has been overkill."
But Mrs. Landrieu said she was not concerned about the visits, including one planned for today in Shreveport and New Orleans by the former president's son, President Bush.
"I have no qualms about him coming. I know he represents his party and that's fine, but I represent the state of Louisiana," she said.
Besides the father-and-son presidents, Vice President Richard B. Cheney, Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi, and Sen.-elect Elizabeth Dole of North Carolina have all been to Louisiana on Mrs. Terrell's behalf.
At the rally in Monroe yesterday, the elder Mr. Bush told voters it would be "icing on the cake" if they would send his son another Republican to support his "American message."
"This is not about Democrats and Republicans so much as it is about support for the president," the former president told several hundred supporters of Mrs. Terrell who gathered in Monroe, a city of about 50,000 situated among cotton fields in the northeast corner of the state.
"You can send a strong message around the country that you have confidence in the president and you want to send a fine young woman up there" to Washington to support him, the former president said.
Mrs. Terrell said she would be that supporter.
"I will stand with him and not be a roadblock to his important policies," she said.
Still, she sought to counteract Mrs. Landrieu's charge that she would be a "rubber stamp" for the president, saying, "He will know when Suzie Terrell disagrees."
In last night's debate, Mrs. Landrieu and Mrs. Terrell, as they have in previous debates, also sparred over abortion and charges of flip-flopping on the issue an important one in a conservative state where 30 percent of the population is Roman Catholic.
Mrs. Terrell assailed Mrs. Landrieu's support for abortion and accused Mrs. Landrieu of changing her position.
"I am a practicing Catholic. I believe in sanctity of life. I am pro-life. I will fight for the life of the unborn. I believe life begins at conception," Mrs. Terrell said. "It is important we recognize we have a chance to change the culture of this country to one that respects life.
"We know Mary Landrieu has been pro-abortion."
Mrs. Landrieu says she supports adoption as an alternative to abortion, and supports abortion to protect a woman's health or where she is a rape victim.
"I want to answer the charge that I've lost moral integrity. I'm offended and my family is offended. That charge has no place," Mrs. Landrieu said. "I am as pro-life on this issue as anyone else."
Mrs. Landrieu parried the question when asked by a moderator if she considered herself pro-choice.
"I don't think labels represent my position," she said
The earlier debates also produced some pointed exchanges on the issue, with Mrs. Terrell at one time questioning Mrs. Landrieu's Catholicism because of her pro-choice votes.
Republicans are following the game plan they used in a series of races across the nation in the weeks before the Nov. 5 elections. In those races, national Republicans argued that voters who supported the president should send him Republican lawmakers.
That strategy netted the Republicans two seats and left them with 51 votes in the Senate, with the chance of adding Mrs. Terrell in Sunday's runoff election.
In Louisiana, if no one takes 50 percent of the vote in November, the two top candidates, regardless of party, compete in the runoff in this case Mrs. Landrieu against Mrs. Terrell.
A University of New Orleans poll released yesterday showed the runoff a statistical dead heat.
The survey of 700 registered voters found that 44 percent said they would vote for Mrs. Landrieu, while 43 percent said they would vote for Mrs. Terrell.
The survey was conducted Nov. 24 to 27 and had a margin for error of 3.7 percentage points.
The Bush rally, which took place in a hangar at the Monroe airport, began without Mrs. Terrell, whose plane had to continue circling the field because a dog was on the runway. She appeared at the rally after the former president had started speaking.
Louisiana has never had a Republican senator, and Mr. Bush said now is the time.
"We want Louisiana to depart from tradition not values, but the tradition of one party," he said.


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