- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 10, 2002

NEW ORLEANS The fight for the U.S. Senate seat in Louisiana may soon get as unruly as a Mardi Gras parade, as unpredictable as the bayou weather, as hot as a Cajun stew.
The state won't be the battleground to determine which political party controls the U.S. Senate a much-discussed possibility before Tuesday's Republican landslide but it does offer its own kind of intrigue.
Some predict that President Bush's popularity could propel the Republican candidate, Suzanne Haik Terrell, to an upset victory over incumbent Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu. Mr. Bush is expected to campaign here for Mrs. Terrell.
But others point to the fact that some voters in Louisiana have expressed resentment toward the attempts of outsiders to influence the state's political affairs.
Mrs. Landrieu ran against eight other candidates in Tuesday's election, collecting about 46 percent of the vote. Mrs. Terrell finished second, with 27 percent.
Louisiana has a unique election system in which there are no primaries. If a candidate does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote on Election Night, a runoff is scheduled between the top two candidates, resulting in Mrs. Landrieu's facing off against Mrs. Terrell in the December 7 runoff.
Compounding Mrs. Terrell's electoral chances, Republican Gov. Mike Foster on Thursday refused to support the Republican challenger in her bid to unseat Mrs. Landrieu. Also, Republican Rep. John Cooksey, who finished third with 14 percent in Tuesday's election, has said he will not provide assistance to Mrs. Terrell's campaign.
Both men criticized the Republican National Senatorial Campaign for running a "smear campaign" through Terrell television ads. The governor even hinted that he might back Mrs. Landrieu in the race.
"I was very put out on the tone of the last election, the negativism," Mr. Foster said Thursday.
"If that's the best anybody can come up with," he said, "I'm certainly going to be on the other side. Whoever is the most negative? If it really gets like the last one, I can't be for that, no matter what the stakes are."
"The night I conceded," Mr. Cooksey said, "I said I'd endorse [Mrs. Terrell] and that's it. I've done what I've done and that's it."
Mr. Cooksey said Mrs. Terrell's election team had urged him to become co-chairman of her campaign for the December 7 runoff, in an attempt to unite the Republican Party faithful. He said he declined the offer.
Mr. Cooksey said many Republicans are disenchanted with Mrs. Terrell's candidacy.
"I don't even want to tell you what some of them are saying," Mr. Cooksey told the Baton Rouge Advocate. "They are not going to vote for Suzy. Some are going to vote for Mary."
But on Friday Mrs. Terrell played down the significance of the defections of her fellow Republicans, saying endorsements don't mean that much.
Some of the animosity among Louisiana Republicans was generated by the RNSC's decision to endorse Mrs. Terrell early in the campaign cycle, ignoring some of the other, more socially conservative, Republican candidates.
The RNSC also spearheaded a bare-knuckled television campaign attacking Mrs. Landrieu right up to the closing days before Tuesday's election. The New Orleans Times-Picayune termed the TV ad campaign a "$3 million blitz."
Silas Lee, a longtime New Orleans pollster, said he was not surprised by the governor's position.
"He's always been an independent player," Mr. Lee said. "I'm sure the Terrell position now is, 'OK, if you won't endorse me, I'll call out some of my other friends, like George W. Bush.'"

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