Louisiana voters returned Democrat Mary Landrieu to the U.S. Senate in a race that was billed as a test of President Bush's political power and personal prestige vs. the Democratic party's long hold on the state's two senate seats.

In a runoff Dec. 7, Landrieu polled 637,375 votes (52 percent) to 595,520 votes (48 percent) for Suzanne Haik Terrell. The runoff was required when Landrieu failed to receive 50 percent of the vote in the Nov. 5 mid-term elections.

Although much of Landrieu's support reportedly came from the state's urban voters, she also received help from the state's agricultural community. Landrieu was a staunch defender of the 2002 farm bill and a critic of the Senate-passed Grassley-Dorgan payment limits amendment.

Pre-election polling had shown the race between, Landrieu, a real estate broker and townhouse developer, and Terrell, the state elections commissioner, almost too close to call.

Analysts thought the popularity of the president, who campaigned with Terrell on the Tuesday before the runoff, would tilt the election in her favor.

The lead enjoyed by Terrell in the early returns disappeared as the vote totals from New Orleans, where Democrats mounted a major get-out-the-vote campaign, began to come in. Landrieu said it was a sign there is still some fight left in the Democratic Party.

“A great light has gone on in the United States because we turned the lights on. People can see the danger of partisan, poison politics,” said Landrieu, who was hit by massive amounts of “soft money” advertising from outside the state. “The light has shown that the Democratic Party is alive and well and united.”

The Landrieu victory left intact a 130-year tradition of Democratic control of Louisiana's senate seats.