Following the first televised debate between Louisiana Senate candidates Sen. Mary Landrieu
and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness
, Landrieu held a brief press conference to slam Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy
, who had declined to participate in the debate held at Dillard University as well as other forums.
Landrieu (and Maness) didn't mention Cassidy by name during the Oct. 9 debate but Landrieu often referred to "the guy who didn't show up." Following the debate, Landrieu and four supporters asked Cassidy to answer questions about his voting record and his absence from debates. "I thought (Maness) did very well tonight," Landrieu said. "The problem is the congressman has refused to show up to debate. ... It's virtually as if he has not agreed to any debates."
"This seat is not up for sale," she continued. "If you're not man enough or strong enough to go to these debates, how in heavens are you going to be strong enough to represent the citizens of Louisiana who deserve tenacity, strength and determination?"
Landrieu joked that she thought Cassidy was afraid of her, as she knows she has a "temper." Landrieu said Cassidy is afraid of seniors, women and students — each of whom was represented by four people standing behind her.
Landrieu this week shook up her campaign by putting Ryan Berni —
former spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu
and head of his successful reelection campaign —
in as her new campaign manager, and she also fielded questions about her late-in-the-game, self-described "A team" and whether the move was a "desperate" last-minute attempt. ("Do I look desperate?" she said.)
"We're in the bottom of the ninth, and we need to bring in our closing team," she said. "Our operation is now about moving our voters to the polls."
"The senator called and of course I was going to come over and do what I could to win," Berni told Gambit
. "This isn't about me. This is about closing strong.
"Obviously I just ran the race in New Orleans, but again, this is not about me," he added. "This is about everywhere else in the state, and the senator's going to run strong statewide."
The debate — which airs 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 10 on WDSU-TV — put seemingly polar opposites Landrieu and Maness together for the first time (not including the Alliance for Good Government's non-debate "forum" last week
). Both candidates had strong vocal support in the crowd at Dillard. The most heated moments came during questions about health care and immigration reform. Landrieu admitted the Affordable Care Act "isn't perfect" but is an important measure for people locked into jobs only for health benefits and people in their 20s who can be enrolled with their parents' plans. Maness, however, called Obamacare "an abomination" and repeated his refrain of "pulling it out by the roots."
"Let's go back to state control before Obamacare came into the picture," he said. Maness — a retired Air Force colonel with Tea Party backing — was confident in his largely hyperbolic and patriotic debate style. When it came to immigration reform, in which Landrieu supports increased border control while also offering a "pathway to citizenship," Maness repeated "secure the border" three times in a row and declared "no amnesty, no citizenship," adding he would rather support employment opportunities for already-legal Americans.