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Cazayoux caught between electoral hard place and rock

It’s no accident that suddenly Democrat Rep. Don Cazayoux is doing his best to not look like a liberal now that Republican state Sen. Bill Cassidy has announced he will take on the Congressman of a month’s service in the fall.

Cazayoux, to fill an unexpired term in the Sixth District, squeaked by Republican nominee Louis “Woody” Jenkins last month but never left the frying pan. The Democrat he defeated in a runoff to get the nomination, state Rep. Michael Jackson, has not stopped campaigning and will either take a shot again at Cazayoux in the Democrat primary, or run as an independent in the general election.

If it’s the latter, then Cazayoux officially goes out of the pan and into the fire. He cannot win that race and the chances of Jackson pursuing the independent strategy only have increased as Sen. Barack Obama has become the presumptive Democrat nominee which is presumed will bring out the black vote in greater numbers (Jackson is black, Cazayoux is white) and by his attempting to sprinkle in conservative votes during his young Congressional career, such as being one of just a handful of Democrats to vote against their party’s budget which narrowly passed. (This vote means little in terms of Cazayoux’s beliefs as the liberal Democrat leadership gave him permission to defect on it because they counted enough votes with some to spare to pass; had they not had them, they would have made him vote in favor through the use of judicious threats.)

He is veering sharply right because physician Cassidy will be a formidable candidate. He’s been a member of the Legislature for only about 18 months but compiled one of the most solid conservative records in it. In getting there, he handily knocked off a former state representative whose district comprised a portion of the Senate district, so he’s a proven campaigner. He also has the ability to self-finance such a campaign and is well-regarded in the district where he is based in its urban heart as opposed to Cazayoux being from rural Pointe Coupee.

While Jenkins and the woman he defeated in the nomination runoff, Laurinda Calogne, may want to contest him for the nomination, they should realize discretion is the better part of value and that they face an uphill battle. If they defer (a decision that will be made within a month), Cazayoux is really caught between a rock and a hard place. With a candidate of Cassidy’s quality in the contest, he must try to cast as many high-profile conservative votes as possible to blunt Cassidy’s appeal, but that only will drive some more Democrats into Jackson’s camp.

If Jackson continues his quest and Cassidy lives up to his potential, look for Cazayoux to have one of the shortest stays in Congressional history.

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