Energy job is plus for Landrieu

By By Jim Beam / American Press

State Republicans

don’t agree, but U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., got a boost in her

re-election bid when she was named chairwoman of the powerful Senate

Energy and Natural Resources Committee. It may not be a big advantage,

but when you’re in a close race it could make the difference.

 

 Most

public opinion polls from both liberal and conservative survey groups

confirm this is a toss-up contest. The latest comes from Public Policy

Polling, described as a “leftleaning firm.”

 

 Dean

Debnam, the president of PPP, said, “… The difficulties with the launch

of Obamacare seem to have really taken a toll on Mary Landrieu’s

standing.”

 

 U.S.

Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, is Landrieu’s major challenger, but

there are two other announced Republican candidates. They are Rob Maness

of Madisonville and state Rep. Paul Hollis of Covington, and there

could still be others that would affect the polling numbers.

 

 A

runoff between Landrieu and Cassidy would be 45-44 with 10 percent

undecided, according to the PPP poll. Back in August, Landrieu was

projected to pick up 50 percent in a runoff with Cassidy, a lead of 10

percentage points.

 

 Rasmussen

Reports in a January poll had Cassidy at 44 percent and Landrieu at 40

percent. Larry Sabato, a respected University of Virginia political

scientist, said the race last year “leans Democratic,” but now calls it a

toss-up.

 

 Critics

of Landrieu agree her declining poll numbers reflect her support of the

president’s Affordable Care Act. The Americans for Prosperity group of

Virginia, which was founded by the billionaire and conservative Koch

Brothers, is spending millions on Landrieu attack ads.

 

 The

Senate Majority Political Action Committee is countering that effort

with an advertising campaign blaming Cassidy for the government shutdown

last year. And Landrieu talks about “the possibility of unlimited, undisclosed secret money coming into this race, which makes it very difficult to fight against...”

 

 In

addition to her support of Obamacare, Landrieu has another problem. CQ

(Congressional Quarterly), a provider of congressional news and

legislative tracking, reports the senator backed President Obama 97

percent of the time in 2013. Cassidy only supported Obama 8 percent of

the time, and that is a real plus for him in this state.

 

 If

the two leading contenders are virtually neck-and-neck at this point,

the energy chairmanship comes into play. The Advocate Wednesday noted

that Louisiana contains just under 10 percent of all known U.S. oil

reserves, is the country’s third-largest producer of petroleum and

produces over one-quarter of the nation’s natural gas.

 

 The

people of Southwest Louisiana know what that means in terms of an

economic boost to this area. The conversion of LNG plants to export

capacity means billions of investment dollars and thousands of new jobs.

Landrieu in a statement talked about what all of this means.

 

 “Today,

we find ourselves in the midst of an energy revolution that has the

potential to grow and expand the middle class in this century,” she

said. “When we tap into energy here at home, we produce high-paying jobs

right where we need them. These jobs pay the kind of wages and salaries

that allow families to buy homes, save for the future and build

wealth.”

 

 You

know where Landrieu’s sympathies lie when environmentalists say they

are concerned about her strong support of the oil and gas industry over

the years. She calls for more oil and gas drilling and for three years

has been pushing for approval of the Keystone pipeline that would ship crude oil and byproducts from Canada to refineries in Port Arthur, Texas.

 

 Former

U.S. Sen. J. Bennett Johnston, a Democrat, was the last Louisiana

senator to chair or be the ranking member of the energy committee (1983

to 1997). He sees Landrieu’s new job as a “great deal” for her state.

 

 “Oil

and gas is No. 1 in Louisiana,” Johnston told The New York Times.

“Being chairman of the committee that has jurisdiction is just

fabulously important for the state.”

 

 Most

Republicans don’t buy anything coming from The Times or other

Democrats, and they have been quick to try and shoot down any talk about

Landrieu benefiting from her new chairmanship.

 

 Roger

Villere, chairman of the state Republican Party, said the new job means

little because of Senate Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of

Nevada. He talked about Reid blocking any legislation benefiting oil and

gas states.

 

 “It doesn’t matter who chairs what committee, as long as Harry Reid is in charge, Louisiana will suffer,” Villere said.

 

 Maybe

so, but you can be sure many people in the oil and business are going

to put the interests of their companies and their stockholders first.

Mark Miller, a Republican and president of Merlin Oil and Gas in

Lafayette, is one of those who said he intends to vote for Landrieu.

 

 “She (Landrieu) believes wholeheartedly in our industry, and that’s good for Louisiana,” Miller told The Times.

 

 It’s

still early, and a lot can change between now and the congressional

elections on Nov. 4. However, anyone who discounts an advantage Landrieu

has by heading the energy committee had better put together some

convincing arguments.