Louisiana Senate Candidates Hedge On Post-Ferguson Race Relations

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GERALD HERBERT
CREDIT: AP PHOTO/GERALD HERBERT

In their only head-to-head meeting before the Senate runoff on Saturday, Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu and Republican candidate Bill Cassidy disagreed Monday night on policies ranging from abortion to tax cuts and healthcare. But the two had one thing in common: both lacked any ideas for how to improve race relations following the police shooting of unarmed teen Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO.

Landrieu seemed to equate the grief felt by the family of Michael Brown with the shooting’s impact on Ferguson Police Officer Darren Wilson, who resigned earlier this week after ducking indictment.

“Race relations have deteriorated a bit in this country,” Landrieu said in the debate. “What happened in Ferguson was a tragedy for Michael Brown’s family as well as for the officer and his family.”

Landrieu’s only suggestion was for the community in Ferguson to “continue to have dialog” on how to improve police practices.

Similarly, Cassidy said the country has “made strides” in terms of racial acceptance, but did not address the specific events or racial tension seen in the wake of the Ferguson shooting and grand jury decision.

“If you compare it to when we had Jim Crow laws, clearly it’s better,” he said about race relations in the U.S.

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Landrieu also said she supports drug testing for welfare recipients, although she admitted that she has to check her voting record to be sure. Similarly, Cassidy said it’s unfair to provide government benefits like food stamps to people who will continue self-destructive behaviors. But research shows when drug tests are actually administered for welfare recipients, the policies carry big administrative costs and exacerbate the many ways that welfare recipients are unfairly stereotyped.

Both candidates have struggled to reach out to African-American​ voters, especially in the weeks leading up to the runoff election. The number of black voters who cast early ballots before the runoff plummeted 24 percent from the general election, and the early voting totals give an edge to Republicans.

While the two offered no ideas for post-Ferguson reforms, President Obama announced Monday that he would call for funds for police officers to wear body cameras and review standards on military-style equipment given to local police departments.