Clay Higgins, Staff Photo

By KEVIN McGILL, Associated Press

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Former sheriff's deputy Clay Higgins galloped into Congress two years ago in part on the strength of viral anti-crime videos in which he displayed the cowboy swagger that earned him his "Cajun John Wayne" nickname.Back then, his outsider image helped separate him from a pack of fellow conservative Republicans running for an open seat in southwest Louisiana. Now, he's an incumbent with an endorsement from President Donald Trump.

He's also a target. At a recent Lafayette forum, attorney Josh Guillory, a fellow Republican, chastised Higgins for votes Guillory said raised the federal debt and for living outside the district he represents — the 3rd Congressional District covering southwest Louisiana. Higgins responded with indignation. "I represent the culture and communities that the Higgins family has lived within for 200 years and it's somewhat personally offensive to me to suggest otherwise," said Higgins, whose home in Port Barre is north of the district line.

Guillory is one of six challengers facing Higgins on the Nov. 6 non-partisan ballot. Four Democrats and a Libertarian round out the field.

Higgins' camp boasts polling that shows him with more than 60 percent support, plenty more than the majority needed to avoid a December runoff. Campaign finance records show him with a significant fundraising advantage with more than $816,000 raised. His closest money-raising competitors: Guillory, who reports more than $200,000 raised plus a $127,800 self-loan; and Democrat Mimi Methvin, an attorney and former U.S. magistrate judge, who has raised nearly $184,000 plus a $51,000 self-loan.

Higgins' solid 93 rating from the American Conservative Union and his Trump endorsement haven't stopped Guillory's attack from the right. And Guillory also has an endorsement from Trump's personal lawyer and former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Giuliani told The Advocate newspaper he learned of Guillory through Guillory's finance director, Jennifer LeBlanc. New York media have linked Giuliani and Leblanc romantically.

Methvin criticizes Higgins's vote for a tax cut that Democrats have long labeled as weighted to the wealthy, as well as his vote to kill the health care law passed under former President Barack Obama. She insists she'll have a strong enough get-out-the vote effort to make it to a runoff with Higgins.

The challengers face a tough path says Joshua Stockley, political science professor at the University of Louisiana-Monroe. "I think the chances are good that he's going to win outright," Stockley said of Higgins.

The other five incumbents also have more money and name recognition than their little-known opponents.

1ST DISTRICT

Seeking a sixth term, incumbent Steve Scalise is the third most powerful House Republican and would be a possible candidate for speaker should the GOP maintain control of Congress. His nearly $9.6 million war chest dwarfs that of any of his challengers. He's spent some of the money on television ads thanking constituents for support and prayers as he recovered from severe injuries suffered when a gunman opened fire on a House softball practice last year.

Challenging him are a Libertarian, an independent and three Democrats, the most visible being Jim Francis of Covington and a retired Air Force psychologist, Tammy Savoie of New Orleans.

2nd DISTRICT

Incumbent Cedric Richmond of New Orleans, the only Democrat in the Louisiana congressional delegation, is on the ballot with one opponent listed as independent and two "No Party" challengers. Only one, little-known no-party candidate Jesse Schmidt of Gretna has raised money — $20,000 according to federal reports.

Richmond has broad name recognition and contributions of $1.4 million.

4th DISTRICT

Like Higgins, Mike Johnson of Bossier City is a freshman Republican in the House. Two opponents are on the ballot and only one, Democrat Ryan Trundle, has filed a federal campaign finance report, showing he has raised $18,204 compared to Johnson's $1.1 million to campaign in the sprawling district that covers northwest Louisiana.

5th DISTRICT

Republican incumbent Ralph Abraham seeks a third term. In 2016 his only opponent was little-known Republican Billy Burkette. Burkette, of Pride, is on the ballot again, this time as an independent. The ballot for the largely rural northeast Louisiana district that stretches from Arkansas to the parishes north of Baton Rouge, also lists Democrat Jessee Fleenor of Loranger and Libertarian Kyle Randol of Monroe. Only Fleenor reported campaign contributions, raising $11,715 as of the last reporting period, compared to more than $850,000 for Abraham.

6th DISTRICT

Incumbent Republican Garrett Graves first made it to Congress by ruining former four-term Gov. Edwin Edwards' attempt at a comeback in 2014 following a prison term. Edwards, a Democrat, made it to a runoff in the Republican-dominated district. But Graves easily defeated him. In 2016, Graves won without a runoff against five challengers. This year, two Democrats, Justin Dewitt and Andie Saizan, join independent Devin Graham as challengers.

As in the other races, the incumbent has a tremendous financial advantage, having raised more than $2.2 million.

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