Many districts turned from red to blue tonight, but for Democrat House member Don Cazayoux of Louisiana, not even a liberal wind could carry him to a second term.
The dynamics of the race were as strange as they were hard to call. Cazayoux, 43, went up against not only Republican nominee Bill Cassidy, 51, but also independent Michael Jackson, who Democrats feared—rightly—would siphon off key votes. Further complicating the race, Cazayoux won his seat only this past May, when Republican Rep. Richard Baker retired.
Cazayoux was seen as vulnerable from the get-go. He took the district by a mere 3,000-vote margin, despite allegations that his opponent had Ku Klux Klan associations. The Democrat represented a district that Bush won in double digits in 2000 and 2004. And his opponent, Cassidy, was a formidable candidate. A state senator and physician, he first garnered headlines for turning an abandoned Kmart into a makeshift hospital during Hurricane Katrina.
The "Jackson effect" also had a role in undoing Cazayoux. Cazayoux's district, which runs south from the border of Mississippi and includes the state capital of Baton Rouge, is one-third African-American. And 43-year-old Jackson is not only a lifelong Democrat but black. The threat seemed so acute that Barack Obama was enlisted to give a radio ad for Cazayoux, but not even that could help: The first half of precinct returns showed that Jackson garnered about 7 percent of the vote. Jackson was unmistakably "the spoiler" in the election, says Chris Van Hollen, chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
But the biggest reason for Cassidy's win, Republicans say, is that voters came home to their party. "This is a district where the threat of a Democratic White House and strengthened majorities in both houses of Congress are viewed upon in a very negative light," says Ken Spain, spokesperson for the National Republican Congressional Committee.
Plus, Spain says, Louisiana "is immune to the national environment, in many ways."
Apparently—and, for Democrats in Louisiana, disappointingly—so.