Energy & Environment

Without Energy gavel can Landrieu prove she carries clout?

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) didn’t lose her reelection race last night, but she did lose her powers as chairwoman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, leaving her with little leverage going into a December runoff.

Landrieu will square off against Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) in the runoff, but now she can’t wave her committee gavel as a symbol of the influence she wields in Washington, D.C. and offer its benefits to Louisiana voters.

{mosads}“Energy issues are big deal in Louisiana but the voters — if you look at southern parishes where energy is the main issue and voters are employed by the oil and gas industry — they didn’t vote for her,” Bernie Pinsonat, a prominent state pollster who has clients in both parties, told The Hill on Wednesday.

{mosads}“So they didn’t buy her message that her clout would help. It was a bigger issue that she was painted as being in line with President Obama,” he said.

Republican Senate candidates across the country made Obama the central target and subject of campaign ads during the 2014 election cycle. Cassidy sought to tether Landrieu at every turn to the president and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)

Pinsonat said while voters know she doesn’t side with Obama on energy issues, they didn’t like that she appeared to vote the party line on a number of other issues.

“The overriding issue in that election was Obama and not her clout,” Pinsonat said of Tuesday’s election results in the Louisiana Senate race.

“Sending another Republican to vote against Obama may be more important to voters,” he said. “Since she is not chairman of Energy any longer we are talking about a difficult challenge for her to get out from under Obama.”

Landrieu had pushed back at attempts to tie her to the president throughout the entire race, and touted her 18-years in the Senate, which she said have been dedicated to helping Louisiana.

“This race is not about who the president is, who the president was, or who the president will be. This race is about the future of Louisiana,” Landrieu said Tuesday night to a crowd of supporters in Louisiana.

But heading into a runoff makes the race an entirely different story, as Democrats have long admitted their best bet at a win in Louisiana was on Election Day.

“The narrative has certainly changed,” J. Bennett Johnston Jr., a former Louisiana Democratic senator who held the same chairmanship when he was in office, said.

Still, Johnston isn’t writing off Landrieu just yet and said it should help her chances now that she is going head-to-head with Cassidy.

“Now since the GOP has taken the majority in Senate, Mary will be running against Cassidy and she will be talking about what she has done and what she can do,” he said.

If reelected, Landrieu would be the ranking member on the Senate Energy committee, a position Johnston said is “important” for Louisiana to have.

“I was ranking member for six years and you can get a lot done in that position, and you are essentially in standby for the chairmanship,” he said.

If Louisiana votes Landrieu out, he warned, then Washington’s Sen. Maria Cantwell will be ranking member, who he called a “self-proclaimed anti-oil” Democrat.

When it comes down to it, Johnston said, as ranking member or chairman, there is “no doubt” these positions are “helpful” to Louisiana’s interests of advancing offshore drilling, and oil and natural gas production.

“It’s a convincing argument to me. Having been chairman I know what you can do for your country and state,” he said. “There is no doubt about the power of that committee. Now, will the public appreciate that? Well, sometimes the public does dumb things.”

After the race headed to a runoff Tuesday night, a $2.1 million ad blitz targeting Landrieu on her energy chops was immediately launched by an industry group backed by the conservative donors Charles and David Koch.

The runoff election will be held on Dec. 6.

Tags Bill Cassidy Energy Mary Landrieu Natural gas oil Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee

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