State GOP postpones endorsement debate

With important federal fall elections approaching, the state Republican Party on Saturday sidestepped the controversial issue of candidate endorsements and refused to consider a “party unity” resolution.

The party executive committee’s June endorsement of U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy’s bid to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu irked some supporters of retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a tea party favorite from Madisonville.

The Cassidy backing prompted a proposed endorsement rule change under which candidate endorsements would have to come from the 200-member Republican State Central Committee — the party’s elected ruling body — after candidate qualifying. But the proposal got bottled up by the party’s rules committee.

“We are in agreement on one thing. We need endorsement rules,” said Scott Wilfong, rules committee chairman. “We pledged collectively to delve into this. We want to postpone this to the next regular meeting.” No one objected, including rule sponsor George Peterson.

The next State Central Committee meeting is after the November primary election.

The SCC also declined to consider a resolution encouraging Republican candidates running for federal office who lose in the Nov. 4 primary to unite behind the party candidate who advances to the Dec. 6 runoff.

Multiple Republican candidates are running for U.S. Senate and in congressional races in Louisiana’s nonpartisan open primary system. All candidates run on the same ballot, with the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advancing to a runoff if no one gets a majority vote.

“Failure by unsuccessful Republican candidates to unite after the primary behind the Republicans who have made the runoff has contributed to Republican defeats in critical federal elections in Louisiana,” said the resolution sponsored by committee member Mike Bayham.

The party resolutions committee tabled the proposal, prompting Bayham to try to advance the measure to the full SCC. He failed to get the two-thirds vote to bypass committee.

After the vote, a disappointed Bayham said, “They said they didn’t have time to read the resolution.”

Bayham said he would try again to pass the “unity resolution” in November.

Eight candidates running for national office attended the SCC meeting and made campaign pitches to the gathering at the LABI conference center, including Cassidy.

“I flew in and I flew coach,” said Cassidy, chuckling at his reference to recent Landrieu troubles over alleged use of office funds for private aircraft to go to campaign events.

Cassidy said Louisiana will determine which party controls the Senate. He said Landrieu will have a 65,000-vote advantage coming out of her home base of New Orleans. “Wherever you are, we need to offset that,” he said.

Cassidy’s political director Brian Swensen told the committee that the campaign is targeting Republicans who do not vote frequently, those folks who have voted in presidential elections but little else. “This race is going to be won in the margins,” Swensen said.

Follow Marsha Shuler on Twitter, @MarshaShulerCNB.