LAFAYETTE — With her political future in jeopardy, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu is turning to a seemingly natural constituent base in her re-election bid: Louisiana’s women.
The Democratic incumbent spoke Wednesday to 400 women in Lafayette —and a few men who came with them — in one of nearly a dozen events around Louisiana targeting female voters and asking for their support Nov. 4. Similar “Women With Mary” stops are planned in Baton Rouge and New Orleans next week as early voting begins.
“We want to show our female power,” said former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, a Democrat who is the only woman to be elected governor in Louisiana and a longtime friend of Landrieu.
Landrieu, seeking a fourth term, is under fire from Republicans nationally in their effort to retake control of the U.S. Senate. Her chief competitor is Republican Bill Cassidy, a congressman from Baton Rouge who says Landrieu is too closely aligned with President Barack Obama, who is unpopular in Louisiana.
In the tight race, the senator is expected to win support from a majority of black voters, but she’s struggling in efforts to hold onto support among white voters, who have become more conservative. Female voters outnumber men in every Louisiana parish, according to the Landrieu campaign. They could be the swing voters to help Landrieu, the only woman holding statewide office in Louisiana, scrape together a victory.
At the Lafayette event, Landrieu highlighted her support for a minimum-wage increase and equal pay legislation in a state where 20 percent of people live in poverty and where the gap between what men and women earn is among the largest in the nation.
She also continued to talk about her clout in Congress, describing her chairmanship of the Senate’s energy committee as vital to the oil-rich state, and she sought to distance herself from the Obama administration.
“This is not about who is president, who will be president, who might be president, who was president. This is about who is going to be the senator for the next six years in Louisiana,” Landrieu said to kick off her speech in the packed hotel ballroom.
Supporters in the room described Landrieu as a “trailblazer” for women in Louisiana politics, since she was elected to the state Legislature at the age of 23. They talked of her as a mother, a sister and a wife who understands the issues most important to women. But they also hit the same campaign theme Landrieu drums on the campaign trail, that her seniority in Congress — and her energy chairmanship — are invaluable to Louisiana.
“If we lose that seat, we go back to the back of the line again,” said Kathy Ashworth, a former parish council member who works for a local communications firm.
Blanco described Landrieu as “an extremely powerful asset to our state.”