WASHINGTON — The tea party-connected Senate Conservatives Fund announced Monday that it would support Rob Maness over fellow Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy in the 2014 U.S. Senate race.
It’s the biggest endorsement yet for the retired U.S. Air Force Col. Maness. of Madisonville, and gives the tea party candidate greater ability to draw in national fundraising dollars.
As of the end of September, Maness reported to federal authorities that he had raised about $100,000 for his campaign war chest. Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge, had about $3.4 million and Democratic incumbent Sen. Mary Landrieu reported nearly $5.8 million.
The Senate Conservatives Fund was founded by former Sen. Jim DeMint, R-S.C., in 2008. The group recently worked closely with Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, to help fund the “Defund Obamacare” effort that led to the recent government shutdown.
“Col. Rob Maness is a constitutional conservative with a remarkable record of service to our country,” Senate Conservatives Fund Executive Director Matt Hoskins said.
“He understands the value of our freedoms and will fight to repeal Obamacare and stop the massive spending, bailouts and debt that are bankrupting our country. He offers voters a compelling choice over Sen. Mary Landrieu because he’s not a Washington insider.”
The Alexandria, Va., group has for months claimed Cassidy is not conservative enough for Louisiana and said it was vetting Maness for a potential endorsement.
The Senate Conservatives Fund says it has 3,300 donating members in Louisiana and takes credit for helping to elect young U.S. senators such as Cruz, Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Rand Paul, R-Ky.
“This significant national endorsement is a sign of the continuing momentum started by the people here in Louisiana,” Maness said in a prepared statement.
“I am very happy to accept this endorsement and I’m incredibly thankful to the Senate Conservatives Fund and to the diverse Louisianans who supported my campaign in its early days. They made this possible.”
Democrats, including the Campaign for Louisiana that was formed to support Landrieu, seized on the endorsement to argue that it is a sign of weakness for Cassidy, considered by many to be her leading challenger.
“Republicans are seeing what voters across Louisiana have learned about Bill Cassidy since he began his listless campaign for Senate — that he’s not someone they can trust to come clean about where he stands or fight for Louisiana families,” said Andrew Zucker, Campaign for Louisiana communications director.
Maness, 51, moved to Louisiana full time in 2011 for a job with Entergy after retiring from the Air Force. He is not a Louisiana native, but he was assigned at times to the Barksdale Air Force Base in Shreveport.
Maness is married with five children.