Rep. Bill Cassidy (R)
Louisiana 6th District
Baton Rouge is the central node of Louisiana, on the boundary between the French-speaking, Catholic Cajun country and the heavily Baptist region. Its skyscraper Capitol and Exxon refinery sit just beyond the levees that line the Mississippi River. Historically, it was part of the Florida parishes, the territory west of the Mississippi River and north of Lake Pontchartrain that was not included in the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. It still belonged to Spain, until the locals rebelled and declared their own Republic of West Florida in 1810. Then it quickly became part of Louisiana and the United States, but the Florida parishes, like the states of Texas, California, Vermont, and Hawaii, can claim to have been separate republics (and a kingdom in the case of Hawaii) before their people became Americans. When the man who dominated Louisiana politics for decades, Huey P. Long, became governor at age 36 in the old (and still-standing) Gothic Capitol, Baton Rouge had only 30,000 people. He built the 34-story Art Deco Capitol next door to the Governor’s Mansion, which he also built. Long also died in the capitol, the victim of an assassin in 1935. To the south, are the buildings of Louisiana State University, many of which he also built. Today, Baton Rouge is the center of a metropolitan area of 772,000 people that sits on the east bank of the Mississippi and reaches far inland to Livingston Parish. This is one of the faster-growing parts of Louisiana. Livingston and Ascension parishes outside Baton Rouge grew 27% and 29%, respectively, between 2000 and 2007, faster than any other parishes in the state. Baton Rouge grew more than that—no one knows how much more—in the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina, when evacuees moved into motel rooms, spare rooms in people’s houses, dorm rooms in LSU and Southern University, and the city’s population may have momentarily doubled; certainly the traffic jams suggested it had. Many have moved on since then, and the growth has subsided. New Orleans was long the state’s largest city, but Baton Rouge, with 225,000 people, now rivals the reduced, post-Katrina New Orleans in size.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 6th Congressional District of Louisiana includes just about all of metropolitan Baton Rouge, plus three small, mostly rural parishes to the north. Overall, the district is 34% African-American, and historically it was Democratic. In the 1980s, the Baton Rouge area moved toward the Republicans, and in the 1990s, it was fairly closely balanced. In 2004, East Baton Rouge Parish voted 54% for George W. Bush, and Livingston Parish voted 77% for Bush; overall the 6th District voted 59% for Bush. In 2008, the shift was notable. Barack Obama won East Baton Rouge 50%-48%. The only other Democrat to have won the parish since 1964 was Bill Clinton, in 1996. But John McCain won Livingston Parish 85%-13%. McCain won the district 57%-41%.
Rep. Bill Cassidy (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: Sept. 28, 1957, Chicago, IL .
Home: Baton Rouge.
Education: LA St. U., B.S. 1979; M.D., 1983..
Family: Married (Laura); 3 children.
Elected office: LA Senate, 2006-08.
Professional Career: Internist and hepatologist, Cigna Med. Cntr, Los Angeles, CA, 1989-90; LA St. U., Asst. Prof. of Medicine, 1990-96; Assoc. prof. of medicine, 1996-present.
The new Congressman from the 6th District is Republican Bill Cassidy. He was one of only five Republicans to defeat a House Democratic incumbent in the Democratic year of 2008. Republicans have held this Baton Rouge-based district for 30 years, except for the brief tenure of Democratic Rep. Don Cazayoux. He won a May 2008 special election to fill out the term of retiring GOP Rep. Richard Baker, who resigned to head a Washington trade group. Cazayoux held the seat until the regularly scheduled congressional election the following November, then lost it to Cassidy. The son of a life-insurance salesman, Cassidy grew up in Baton Rouge and went to college at Louisiana State University. He went on to graduate from LSU’s medical school, and during his medical training, he met his wife, Laura, who is also a physician and formerly chief of surgery at Earl K. Long Hospital. Cassidy was an associate professor of medicine at LSU and taught at the same hospital. Cassidy went on to cofound the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic, which provides free dental and health care to the working uninsured. He developed a school-based hepatitis B vaccination program that has immunized more than 36,000 public, private, and parochial schoolchildren at no cost to parents or schools.
|Bill Cassidy (R)||150,332||(48%)||($1,252,457)|
|Donald Cazayoux (D)||125,886||(40%)||($2,766,865)|
|Michael Jackson (I)||36,198||(12%)||($212,215)|
|Bill Cassidy (R)||Unopposed|
|Donald Cazayoux (D)||49,703||(49%)|
|Woody Jenkins (R)||46,746||(46%)|
|Ashley Casey (I)||3,718||(4%)|
|Donald Cazayouz (D)||19,806||(57%)|
|Michael Jackson (D)||15,068||(43%)|
One of Cassidy’s defining moments came when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005. With the help of several other physicians, he created a makeshift field hospital in an abandoned Kmart store. In a PBS documentary, he recalled entering the store after the storm. “When we came in, there was grease all over the floor, dust, 90 percent of these lights were out. There was no electricity, no phone lines. No one had checked the plumbing, and we couldn’t even open all the doors. Thirty-six to 48 hours after we began the process, we were ready to begin receiving patients.” Cassidy won a December 2006 special election to the state Senate and was re-elected in 2007. He sponsored several bills to improve health standards in Louisiana, including one to overhaul the children’s mental health system and another to expand Medicaid coverage to patients at new organ-transplant centers.
He passed on the opportunity to compete for Baker’s seat in the special election. But after state Rep. Cazayoux defeated social conservative Woody Jenkins 49%-46%, with a big boost from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, Cassidy vowed to take the district back for the Republicans. He described himself as a “pro-life, pro-gun-rights” social conservative in favor of free enterprise, limited government, and lower taxes. He made the economy the focus of his campaign, highlighting his record in the state Senate of voting against spending bills and cutting taxes for businesses and for parents with children in private schools. He also criticized Cazayoux for supporting Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama’s tax plan. Cazayoux ran an ad criticizing Cassidy for supporting the idea of private savings accounts in the Social Security program. State Rep. Michael Jackson, who is African-American, ran as an independent, due partly to his unhappiness over the national Democrats’ early support for Cazayoux in the special election. Cassidy won comfortably, with 48% to 40% for Cazayoux and 12% for Jackson. In East Baton Rouge, which cast 62% of the total vote, Cassidy won 44%-42%. His margin of victory came in Livingston and Ascension parishes, which he won by more than 27,000 votes. Cazayoux ran strongly in the western part of the district, where he took three rural parishes. The shifting dynamics in this district could set up another competitive contest in 2010.