U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness of Madisonville faced off in their first-ever public debate as the two candidates met at the Alliance for Good Government's endorsement forum at Kenner's City Hall Sept. 30. After the forum, the group voted to endorse Landrieu.
Landrieu's other Republican challenger, U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy of Baton Rouge, was absent — which Landrieu and Maness quickly noted in their introductions. In Cassidy's stead, state Rep. Paul Hollis delivered an introduction and final remarks. (Hollis told Gambit that Cassidy had a "previous engagement.") Hollis was allowed to present only an introduction and closing statement and could not answer questions in Cassidy's stead, though he told the forum that the election is "about a shift in conservative values" with Cassidy acting as a "staunch opponent of President Obama."
Maness (and Cassidy, via Hollis) criticized Landrieu for supporting Obama and the Affordable Care Act, while Landrieu came down against Cassidy for supporting Gov. Bobby Jindal, whom Landrieu called "disastrous" to the state's health care system.
Maness asked audience members if they supported Obamacare and was answered by a few scattered murmurs of "no" — but several others chimed in that they support it. "We've got to pull [Obamacare] out by the roots," Maness said. (An email the following day from the Maness campaign said the debate showed Maness is "the people's choice" — despite Landrieu winning the Alliance endorsement.)
Candidates also discussed energy resources — both favor the Keystone XL pipeline and accountability for oil and gas company damages to Louisiana, and Landrieu touted her chairmanship of the Senate's Energy and Natural Resources Committee. "Why would we give that up?" Landrieu said.
The debate also introduced candidate Bill Waymire, a military veteran and former schoolteacher. Though he stumbled answering several questions, he made the crowd laugh with pithy remarks, like, "[Landrieu] has had her behind on the line. I want to put my behind on the line."