Louisiana’s Congressman All Get Fall Challengers
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Democrats were unable to attract candidates for all of Louisiana's U.S. House races, as the Nov. 6 election sign-up period closed Friday.
All of the state's congressional representatives drew opposition for their re-election bids, though several face challenges from little-known candidates who have done no fundraising so far.
Libertarians filed paperwork to run in more congressional races than did Democrats, as the party continues to struggle in a state where Republicans have gained significant ground in recent election cycles and the moderate "Blue Dog" Democrats who once held most statewide offices have dwindled.
Democrats signed up to run in three of six congressional districts. Libertarian candidates qualified for five of the races.
"I just think it shows the decline of the Democratic Party," said Jason Dore, executive director of the Republican Party of Louisiana.
The most high-profile congressional race is in the 3rd District, where two Republican incumbents — Charles Boustany of Lafayette and Jeff Landry of New Iberia — were placed in one district after Louisiana lost a congressional seat due to population shifts. Come January, the state's number of congressional representatives will go from 7 to 6.
A Democratic candidate for the district emerged Friday as Ron Richard, a Lake Charles personal injury lawyer who'd never run for office, signed up for the race a few hours before the candidate qualifying period ended. He joins GOP and Libertarian challengers for the seat. They will all square off in the open primary contest, with the runoff election set for Dec. 8.
"The working men and women of south Louisiana need somebody working for them, and I quite frankly just don't see it with the two incumbents," said Richard, who said he plans to pour his own money into the race.
Richard showed up with the head of the Louisiana Democratic Party, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson. Peterson, who has led the party for four months, expressed no disappointment about failing to draw a full slate of congressional candidates.
"I've consistently said we are going to be strategic and targeted in what we do as a party," she said. "We are rebuilding. I'm excited about where we are."
President Barack Obama's approval ratings remain low in Louisiana, and the state has trended firmly red in recent elections. Democrats couldn't attract a well-funded challenger to Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal in 2011, or even a full lineup of candidates for all seven statewide positions on the ballot. The GOP held those elected jobs, and has taken the majorities in both the state House and Senate.
Democrats hold one of Louisiana's congressional seats — in the 2nd District, represented by U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond of New Orleans. With the district redrawn and now stretching up the Mississippi River to Baton Rouge, Richmond attracted several opponents from different parties. But the Democratic Party was expected to hold onto the majority-black district.
"The dynamics there aren't in our favor," Dore acknowledged. "I hope we can help there, but it will depend on what kind of resources are available."
In other U.S. House races:
—Republican Rep. Steve Scalise, of Metairie, faces four challengers, including a Democrat who signed up Friday. Vinny Mendoza, an organic farmer from Ponchatoula, has twice lost congressional races to Scalise and ran unsuccessfully for governor.
—Republican Rep. John Fleming, of Minden, drew a Libertarian opponent earlier this week.
—Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander, the dean of the House delegation from Quitman, had survived two days of qualifying without opposition. But he attracted two challengers Friday: political newcomer Clay Grant, a Libertarian from Boyce, and Ron Ceasar, an Opelousas independent who lost a bid for governor last year.
—Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy, of Baton Rouge, attracted two little-known challengers earlier this week, a Libertarian and an independent.
Also up for election are two seats on the seven-member Louisiana Supreme Court.
Justice John Weimer was re-elected without opposition, but the field is crowded for a seat in the eight-parish Baton Rouge area that is vacant because Chief Justice Catherine "Kitty" Kimball is retiring. Eight candidates are vying for the position, most of them judges from lower courts.
Another open seat in the region involves the state's utility regulatory agency, the Public Service Commission, representing south-central Louisiana. Six candidates qualified for the race, including Gov. Bobby Jindal's former natural resources secretary, Scott Angelle, who resigned from his cabinet post to run.