Air Force Col. Rob Maness is making waves in the Louisiana Senate race.
When Maness, a political rookie, first threw his hat into the ring to challenge Louisiana Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, he did not make much of a splash. Republicans already had one candidate in the race, Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, and the $4 million he had raised made Maness’s low six-figures look paltry.
But last week, Maness got the endorsement of the Senate Conservatives Fund.
“That changes the picture dramatically,” Maness said of the endorsement. The truth in Maness’ statement is evidenced in his fundraising: Maness raised just over $100,000 over the past two quarters. After the endorsement, he told The Daily Caller, “we’ve raised more than half of that in the last five days.”
That gives Maness the potential to shake up the race. Louisiana has a jungle primary, so instead of each party having its own party and then sending one nominee to a general election, everybody goes straight into the general election. If no candidate gets a majority of the vote, the top two candidates go to a run off. If Republicans divide their support between Maness and Cassidy, that could give Landrieu an edge. But Maness dismissed that logic, calling it “a concern for the establishment GOP,” a group he makes it quite clear he does not think highly of. “They’re coalescing behind a candidate that doesn’t have the right message, doesn’t have the right voting history in congress and his time in the state legislature … and has supported and defended Mary Landrieu and her approach and the Democratic Party’s approach to things for many, many years, and even criticized President [Ronald] Reagan a time or two in public letters to the editor,” he told TheDC.
All of that is a dig at Cassidy, who once wrote a letter to the editor criticizing Reagan and encouraging people to vote for Dukakis, gave money to Landrieu in 2002, and as a state legislator, proposed healthcare bills that had components similar to Obamacare.
Maness makes a point, however, of not going after Cassidy by name, in what is perhaps a nod to Reagan’s 11th Commandment. Asked why Cassidy is the wrong candidate, Maness replied: “The question really is, is what’s the right candidate and the right set of principles to defeat Mary Landrieu… And that’s the question I’ll answer.”
Maness spoke about the political landscape in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them.’ “We can no longer afford the people in these seats that are not one of us,” he told TheDC. “And when I say we, I’m talking about the people of Louisiana and the people of the United States. And I’m one of us.”
The ‘us’ also encompasses the part of the party of which Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz has become the face and figurehead. Maness said he would have been on the floor with Cruz as he spoke for over 21 hours straight last month to try to block a procedural vote that he believed would help defund Obamacare. Outside of that group are Landrieu and Cassidy and the “establishment,” who Maness suggested have wrested control of the representative institutions away from the people. “We need somebody from the outside, we want our political offices back, we want our Constitution back, and we’re tired with what’s going on in Washington,” he said.
“And the only way we’re going to get that is to put qualified citizen legislators into these offices, so we can put a stop to this corruption that’s going on, and stop allowing the dollars to drive every decision that’s made up there,” he added.
The dollars that Maness says are “driving every decision” are not the dollars that are rolling into his campaign coffers after the SCF endorsement. Members work for the people they represent, he said, and those are the only people from whom they should be taking direction. Also in the “them” category, Maness suggests, would be any staffers or consultants who live in Washington, D.C.
“I will not hire a staff from Washington, D.C.,” he says. “I’ve already got my chief of staff picked out, and I’m not going to reveal the name because I’m not going to allow myself to be drawn into that mess up there in the District of Columbia where the political leadership from the establishment tries to play games with it.” Maness described his ideology as adhering to “constitutional principle.”
He wants Obamacare “not only repealed, but defunded and absolutely taken out of every bit of American law,” saying that it is destroying the 40-hour work week.
“I call it the unaffordable healthcare act,” he said. He wants tax reform to make the system flatter, and make more people into taxpayers. He favors “a strong national defense,” but said that the “defense budget’s not sacrosanct,” and that it needs to be audited to comb out waste.
He also called for Louisiana Republicans to unite around his candidacy, making the argument that the Senate Conservatives Fund endorsement showed he had the momentum and was already warding off would-be challengers. He pointed to state house Rep. Alan Seabaugh, who had been considering entering the race, and announced earlier this week that he would not. Seabaugh endorsed Cassidy.
“I think that the real reason is that folks like him see the writing on the wall that the conservatives now have a vetted candidate that’s got the momentum, got the message, got the campaign, and has the candidate in place to win this thing against Mary Landrieu,” he said. “I’m calling on the rest of the GOP establishment to start coalescing around this conservative candidate.”