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A seat held decades by Republicans goes to a Dem

  • Story Highlights
  • Democratic State Rep. Don Cazayoux beat Republican Woody Jenkins
  • Both parties viewed the race as a bellwether for November election
  • Dems, GOP spent more than $1 million on their candidates
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From Alex Mooney
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(CNN) -- Democrats on Sunday cheered a weekend special election in Louisiana, where a Democratic congressional candidate won a seat that has been held by Republicans for decades.

Democratic state Rep. Don Cazayoux on Saturday won a congressional seat that was long held by a Republican.

Democratic State Rep. Don Cazayoux beat Republican Woody Jenkins in the state's 6th Congressional District on Saturday, with Cazayoux winning 49 percent of the vote to Jenkins' 46 percent. Both parties viewed the race as a potential bellwether of November's congressional races.

The national GOP poured more than $1 million into the contest in an attempt to tie Cazayoux to national Democrats such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

"Don Cazayoux's victory this evening proves once again that Americans across our country want real solutions and reject Republicans' negative attacks," Pelosi said in a written statement hailing the win.

National Democrats spent more than $1 million as well, airing television ads that questioned whether Jenkins -- a newspaper publisher, former state legislator and well-known conservative activist -- had paid all his taxes on time.

The contest was to replace U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, an 11-term Republican who resigned in February to become a lobbyist. The district, which includes capital city Baton Rouge and its surrounding parishes, has been held by the GOP since 1974.

Democrats viewed a victory there as an indication of just how vulnerable Republicans will be in November, while Republicans viewed the race as an early glimpse of how a possible Obama candidacy could affect races down the ticket.

Cazayoux's win comes two months after Democrat Bill Foster won a special election in Illinois to replace former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen quickly sought to link the two races.

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"For the second time this cycle, Republicans were reminded that 'All politics is local,' " Van Hollen said in a statement. "House Republicans tried to nationalize this election, illegally coordinated with Freedom's Watch; used false and deceptive special interest smears and funneled nearly a million dollars into a district that Republicans held for more than three decades."

Freedom's Watch, a conservative group formed by former Bush administration officials, got involved in the race by financing anti-Cazayoux television ads -- a move Democrats said violated election laws.

But the National Republican Congressional Committee countered that their attempts to link Cazayoux to Pelosi and Obama helped Jenkins make up "substantial ground" in the race.

"When Barack Obama and Nancy Pelosi were introduced into this campaign, Don Cazayoux was leading by a large margin in the polls," an NRCC memo stated. "Since then, Republicans saturated the Baton Rouge airwaves in an effort to nationalize this contest and make the election about the real-life consequences of a Barack Obama presidency and a continued Pelosi-run Democratic Congress."

Republicans held on to a second House seat up for grabs Saturday in Louisiana as state Sen. Steve Scalise handily defeated Democrat Gilda Reed, 75 percent to 22 percent, in a heavily Republican district in the New Orleans suburbs.

The seat was last held by Bobby Jindal, who became Louisiana's governor in January. Since Scalise was heavily favored, the race drew little attention from the national parties. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About Nancy PelosiDennis HastertBobby Jindal

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