The Magazine

The Battle of New Orleans

From the December 9, 2002 issue: The last election of 2002, Terrell vs. Landrieu, may also be the meanest.

Dec 9, 2002, Vol. 8, No. 13 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

If national Democrats aren't publicly rushing to Landrieu's side, staffers from the Democratic National Committee and the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are working feverishly behind the scenes for her campaign. That has Louisiana Republicans nervous. They're bracing for what they expect to be a harsh, last-minute effort to scare blacks into voting. Rumors were flying last week throughout the Louisiana political community about the specifics of the coming nastiness. And while there was little consensus about the precise nature of the attack, there was widespread agreement that it was coming.

Republicans have taken extra precautions to safeguard election processes for the December 7 vote. Landrieu won her seat in 1996 by a 6,000 votes out of 1.7 million cast. Her opponent, Woody Jenkins, challenged the result by going to the Senate Rules Committee. After lengthy hearings on the matter, and despite finding "isolated instances" of voter fraud, the Senate concluded Landrieu's campaign had nothing to do with the electoral high jinks and seated her. But Republicans still feel slighted and vow they will be more vigilant this year. "We have extra ballot integrity programs to make sure there's no fraud," says state representative Steve Scalise, who sits on a legislative committee with oversight of elections. "With Woody's race, it wasn't that we needed more laws. It's that we didn't enforce the ones we had."

To that end, Republicans have beefed up their teams of poll-watchers--volunteers who actually sit at the precincts to monitor the process. And Scalise says the party will have a team of lawyers on standby, so that if any of the poll-watchers sees something suspicious, the problem can be addressed immediately. But with increased GOP monitoring often come Democratic cries of "voter intimidation." Says Scalise: "You can predict that at 3 P.M. on Election Day, there are going to be all of these ridiculous cries of intimidation."

Stephen F. Hayes is a staff writer at The Weekly Standard.