GOP U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy formally launches reelection bid
DENHAM SPRINGS, La. (AP) — Republican U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy officially kicked off his Louisiana reelection campaign Wednesday by highlighting his storm recovery work in Washington with a visit to a repaired, locally-owned grocery store that was heavily damaged in the capital region’s 2016 massive flood.
I'm committed to equipping our citizens with the tools they need to be prepared in the event of a natural disaster. (2/2)— U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D. (@SenBillCassidy) February 19, 2020
Cassidy is seeking a second six-year term with a sizable campaign account, and he’s so far drawn no well-financed challengers. His situation is a stark contrast from his 2014 campaign, when the then-congressman from Baton Rouge unseated three-term Democratic incumbent Mary Landrieu in a hard-fought, expensive race.
The GOP senator said he’s working “as if we have the strongest opponent in the world,” but he acknowledged the benefits of incumbency in the Nov. 3 election.
“Now that you’ve got a book of business, you can tell people, ‘I worked on your behalf,’” he said.
In the Senate, Cassidy has been a reliable conservative Republican vote and continued his congressional reputation as a policy wonk, less flashy than Louisiana’s junior U.S. senator, Republican John Kennedy.
A medical doctor, Cassidy often focuses on health care issues, including efforts to improve access to mental health services. He’s won praise from President Donald Trump as a go-to senator for his health care knowledge — a recent shout-out from Trump that Cassidy mentioned as a point of pride Wednesday. He’s working with Ivanka Trump on a paid family leave proposal pending in Congress.
Cassidy unsuccessfully pushed legislation to repeal and replace the federal health care overhaul championed by former President Barack Obama, an effort that failed in the Senate during Trump’s term. While Cassidy said he believes some policies in the Affordable Care Act must be reworked because they are financially unsustainable, he seemed resigned Congress won’t take a wholesale replacement approach.
“Let’s be honest. The ACA has now become part of the fabric of our society. I’ve got scars to prove that,” Cassidy said.
He would not take a position on pending federal litigation backed by the Trump administration that aims to throw out the entire law.
“Six years ago, Cassidy campaigned on improving health care. Six years later, he’s making the same promises with nothing to show. Instead, he’s playing politics with the lives of millions on the line,” Stephen Handwerk, the Louisiana Democratic Party’s executive director, said in a statement.
Cassidy held his 2020 campaign launch event at a Livingston Parish supermarket, locally-owned Rouses, flooded with more than 4 feet of water nearly four years earlier. He toured the grocery store, spoke with shoppers and asked questions of the workers about their own flood damage.
The senator highlighted his work to harness federal aid to repair areas that drew little national attention when two separate floods in 2016 — not associated with a hurricane or other named storm — inundated wide swaths of Louisiana. Cassidy said the grocery store demonstrated “what our state can do” and sent a signal about “commitment to our community.”
The Republican incumbent won’t know his full slate of competitors until mid-July, when the candidate signup period is held.
Antoine Pierce, a Baton Rouge Democrat and community organizer who hosts a radio talk show, announced last year that he’s entering the race, but he’s reported no fundraising so far. By comparison, Cassidy reported $5.3 million in his campaign bank account in his latest finance report filed with the Federal Election Commission.