The 2nd Congressional District looks different, but U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans, is a heavy favorite to win a third term.
“I think that in a short period of time I have become a key member of Congress,” said Richmond, who enjoys huge financial and name-recognition advantages in the Nov. 4 primary.
He cites his roles in helping to win approval for a bill to trim skyrocketing flood insurance rates and the launch of new congressional caucuses to aid the maritime and refinery industries, which are mainstays of the district.
Opponents say the office needs a new voice.
Gary Landrieu, of New Orleans, who like Richmond is a Democrat, made reference to Richmond’s role as a pitcher for the U.S. House in its annual baseball game that pits Democrats against Republicans.
“Mr. Richmond should stay home and play baseball,” Landrieu said.
David Brooks, no party, said the district is plagued by poverty that warrants attention. “To my dismay, I don’t see that conversation happening from our representative,” he said.
Samuel Davenport, a Libertarian who lives in LaPlace, said the area is beset by crime and unemployment and that Richmond has never held a 9-to-5 job outside of government.
“He doesn’t know what these people are going through,” Davenport said.
The 2nd District underwent huge changes after the 2010 census, mostly because of population losses after Hurricane Katrina.
It stretches along the Mississippi River and Interstate 10 from New Orleans to north Baton Rouge.
The district is also Louisiana’s lone “majority minority” congressional post, which means that black voters, who are a minority statewide, make up a majority of voters in the district.
Richmond, a lawyer, said he has struck a balance in backing programs that help more residents enter the middle class while also trimming the federal deficit.
He helped handle the flood insurance bill in the Republican-controlled U.S. House this year to address sky-high flood insurance premiums that stemmed from a federal push to stabilize financing for the federally backed flood insurance program.
That meant repealing part of a 2012 law co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif.
“Brought Maxine Waters down (to Louisiana), which helped spark the change,” Richmond said.
Richmond, 41, served in the state House for a decade before he was elected to Congress in 2010.
He is one of just two Democrats in Louisiana’s congressional delegation.
Like most incumbents, he enjoys a huge financial advantage over his lesser-known challengers.
Richmond has raised $1.2 million in campaign funds and has spent $834,000, according to federal reports.
Landrieu said he is unsure how much he will spend but that it will be a modest amount.
Brooks has reported raising nearly $13,000 and said he plans to spend about $15,000.
Davenport said he has “little to nothing” in the way of campaign finances.
Landrieu, who has never held elected office, considers his outsider status an advantage. “And that is what makes it so special,” he said. “I don’t owe anyone anything.”
Landrieu, 56, owns a marina and is a land developer.
He said his chief issue is making sure that area residents are qualified to fill about 100,000 new jobs that he said are coming to the River Parishes through plant investment and expansion.
“The way to do that is to make sure they have the job training in place so they can get those jobs,” Landrieu said.
Too much cleanup work went to out-of-state residents after Hurricane Katrina, he said.
Landrieu said his other key interest is trimming the crime rate in New Orleans. “Unless we get a handle on that, New Orleans is doomed,” he said.
“We are down to one industry in New Orleans, and we are losing that one,” Landrieu said, a reference to tourism.
Brooks, 30, is an IT security engineer, which means he helps ensure the privacy of computers.
He said his No. 1 issue is reducing poverty in the district, which he said is double the national average.
Brooks said more than 100,000 residents of the district live below the poverty line — currently $23,850 for a family of four.
“It is kind of ridiculous that it has gone on for decades,” he said. “I see it as a major failing of all levels of government, that poverty has been allowed to continue in our district at the rate it has.”
Brooks said more job training is needed for adults.
“It will help lift people out of poverty into the middle class,” he said. “As that happens, people become self-sufficient, and that means welfare payments will go down.”
Davenport, 32, works for a financial services firm.
He said the 2nd District has an unemployment rate of 12.4 percent, high crime and incarceration rates, and was crafted by state lawmakers to ensure the election of a Democrat.
Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell. For more coverage of Louisiana government and politics, follow our Politics blog at http://blogs.theadvocate.com/politicsblog.