Former Secretary of State and U.S. Sen Hillary Clinton, left, appeared with Sen. Mary Landrieu this afternoon at an event at the Sugar Mill intended to rally Democrats for Election Day Tuesday.
Though "Moms and Grams" was the filter applied to a rally for Sen. Mary Landrieu at the Sugar Mill this afternoon, that was only the start of things. Student loan forgiveness, hurricane relief, oil and gas revenue, seniors, equal pay and Rep. Bill Cassidy's no vote on the Violence Against Women Act all were on the agenda for the dozen speakers, among them former Sen. and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was the headline speaker.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas paved the way for the slew of issues that Clinton carefully tied together at the rally's end. "For the women in the audience, can you imagine, the powerful chair of the Energy Committee in the U.S. Senate, carrying energy policy across America, is a woman by the name of Mary Landrieu from Louisiana?" said Lee. "...Mary is not a single-issue person. She is an environmentalist and protecting the environment, passing legislation to protect the wetlands."
"I may be from Texas, but I'm with Mary Landrieu," Lee added, holding up an editorial from the Houston Chronicle
supporting Landrieu. "I'm with Mary because she protects senior citizens," Lee continued, referencing Cassidy's support for raising the retirement age to 70. "How dare they," she said. Lee also talked about Landrieu's continued support for equal pay, raising the minimum wage and for diminishing student loan debt.
Former U.S. Sen. John Breaux took the stage next, cracking: "I used to think those people from Texas weren't that smart, but we just saw a smart person this afternoon. Did she do a good job or what?" Kidding aside, Breaux pointed out that more people have already gone to the polls than ever before in a midterm election in Louisiana, "and the greatest effort is coming from right here in the New Orleans area."
Breaux and others were careful not to mention President Barack Obama, whose approval rating in the state is below 40 percent, especially as Landrieu's opponents continue to align her with the Affordable Care Act, which is deeply unpopular in Louisiana. "I want you to know, this is not a presidential election," said Breaux. "It's an election for the state of Louisiana." Breaux went on to touch on Cassidy's lack of experience in Washington, a point that U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond drove home; Richmond said of his colleague, "People don't even know his name in Washington."
New Orleans City Council President Stacy Head, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and State Rep. Helena Moreno all stumped together for Landrieu in support of women's rights and education reform. Head called Landrieu a "Southern steel magnolia" who has reassured her for the future of Head's nine year-old daughter, thanks to "the most improved urban education program" in the country. Cantrell lauded the senator for supporting a decrease in interest rates for student loans, and Moreno introduced what turned out to be the Cassidy dig of the night: the congressman's vote against the Violence Against Women Act, which installs life saving services for victims of sexual assault and domestic abuse. State Sen. Karen Carter Peterson — also head of the state Democratic Party — later used Cassidy's opposition to the bill as evidence that he does not stand up for women in Louisiana.
Landrieu fed off of the energy in the room, despite having visited every parish in the state over the past 18 months. "People say, 'Mary, aren't you tired?,'" she told the crowd. "I say, no, I'm not aggravated, and this is not the hardest campaign we have run, is it? Do y'all remember the first one?"
Landrieu asked voters to send her back to Washington D.C. to protect the money she secured with the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, and dug at Cassidy for his reluctance to reduce student loan interest rates, and his support of raising the retirement age to 70. "Send me back," she said, "to keep him from wrecking Social Security and Medicare."
Clinton was granted the most stage time to tie together these issues, mentioning that both she and Landrieu both recently became grandmothers, a new role in life that's forced her to consider the future of not only the state, but of the United States. "I have seen her as a U.S. Senator. Her passion for this state is so palpable," Clinton said. "She never forgets where she came from, how she was raised, where her roots are. She knows how to find common ground and she works harder than anybody. But she knows how to stand her ground."
Clinton served in the Senate with Landrieu during Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. "I particularly remember one night after this state and particularly this city were devastated by Katrian," Clinton said." The administration seemed paralyzed, and it was Mary Landrieu who went to the floor of the Senate ...I saw what she was trying to do because I had a similar experience after 9/11, fighting for the money that New York needed to recover. And I saw Mary there tirelessly, intensely fighting for Louisiana. ...She never gave up. If you know anything about Mary Landrieu, you know that is an ingrained characteristic.
"You learn a lot about a leader, and a person, in a moment like that," added Clinton. "... And from what I've heard, Mary's opponent didn't really lift a finger after [Hurricane] Isaac."
Cassidy held his own rally in Abita Springs this afternoon with his own lineup of supporters, including Dr. Ben Carson, Sen. David Vitter, Majority Whip Steve Scalise and State Rep. Paul Hollis.