- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2002

NEW ORLEANS Sen. Mary L. Landrieu won re-election to the U.S. Senate yesterday delivering much-needed good news to Democrats going into the 108th Congress in January.
She beat Republican candidate Suzanne Haik Terrell with 51 percent of the vote, compared with Mrs. Terrell's 49 percent. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, Mrs. Landrieu had 593,631 votes and Mrs. Terrell, 576,878. That leaves the Senate with 51 Republicans, 48 Democrats and one independent who sides with Democrats for organization purposes.
"My feet are tired, but my soul is inspired," Mrs. Landrieu said. "You have inspired me and together we have inspired a great nation."
In her concession speech, Mrs. Terrell reminded the crowd that she entered the race late and with little money.
After she conceded, she told reporters, "the voters spoke, and they made a decision to re-elect an incumbent."
Republicans failed to hold on to a U.S. House seat in the state's northeastern corner. With all precincts for the 5th District congressional seat reporting, Democrat Rodney Alexander had 85,720 votes and Republican Lee Fletcher, 85,202 a difference of just 518 votes in a heavily conservative district.
The two men spent weeks swapping bitter accusations and attack ads as they sought the seat Republican Rep. John Cooksey gave up to run for Senate. There was no immediate word from Mr. Fletcher on whether he would seek a recount.
Control of the Senate already had been decided Nov. 5, when Republicans netted two seats to give them 51 in the chamber. But neither Mrs. Landrieu, seeking her second term, or any other candidate was able to top 50 percent in Louisiana's open primary system, and state law calls for a runoff between the two top vote winners.
President Bush dominated the race this past week with a Tuesday visit to endorse Mrs. Terrell. Both campaigns treated that as an event that framed the campaign, with Mrs. Terrell arguing Louisiana needs a seat at the Republican table, while Mrs. Landrieu argued the state shouldn't elect a senator who will be a "rubber stamp" for the president.
Democrats at Mrs. Landrieu's victory party last night called the race the first election of 2004, and said they hoped Mr. Bush received a message.
"They put out all this stuff about war, but the economy is going to hell in a handbasket," said Helen Moore, an activist from Pineville in the center of the state.
Analysts said Mrs. Landrieu failed to put the race away in November because black voters here, who overwhelmingly vote Democratic, failed to turn out.
Mrs. Landrieu's successful strategy this time around was to rally that support by campaigning with prominent black lawmakers and at the same time try to peel away Mrs. Terrell's support among conservative white Democrats.
Many of those Democrats supported Mrs. Terrell, particularly because they didn't see Mrs. Landrieu as staunch enough on pro-life issues. That is a winning issue both in the largely Catholic southern part of the state and in the conservative Christian north.
Mrs. Terrell did her part in poking at Mrs. Landrieu's record on the issue, charging that she voted to allow federal funding to continue to states to distribute the "morning after" pill, a contraceptive that may in some cases also cause abortion, in public schools.
Mrs. Landrieu said the issue is about states' rights, and she said Louisiana doesn't allow distribution of the pill. She also pointed to her vote to overturn former President Bill Clinton's veto of a federal ban on a type of late-term abortion commonly called "partial-birth abortion."
In the 5th District, the race was just as closely fought. Mr. Alexander's challenge was the same as Mrs. Landrieu's to prove conservative Democrats can still win elections here.
Both Mr. Alexander, who topped the Nov. 5 primary field with 29 percent of the vote, and Mr. Fletcher, who came in second with 25 percent, touted themselves as pro-life and pro-gun and as supporters of Mr. Bush.
This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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