The largest Republican organization in the 6th congressional district voted to endorse three of the nine GOP candidates in the race — but not the top fund raiser — for a seat that is considered safely Republican.
The executive committee voted to back state Sen. Dan Claitor, whose southeast Baton Rouge district accounts for about 18 of the voters in the congressional district; state Rep. Lenar Whitney, the only GOP candidate not from Baton Rouge; and Paul Dietzel II, a first-time candidate who is the grandson of the LSU coaching legend, Woody Jenkins, chairman of the Republican Party of East Baton Rouge Parish, confirmed Wednesday.
Eight of the nine Republican candidates were interviewed, spoke at Baton Rouge GOP functions, and filed out extensive questionnaires before the vote was taken, Jenkins said. One candidate, Charles “Trey” Thomas, of Baton Rouge, removed himself from consideration because he is member of the party’s organization’s executive committee. There are 13 candidates in all.
Balloting was in secret and the choice was for whether or not to endorse each candidate, which is how more than one candidate emerged.
“I don’t want to make any claims other than it’s our guidance for Republican voters should they choose to use it,” Jenkins said.
Party leaders, however, did not give a nod to Garret Graves, who has raised $873,942 — more than the three endorsed candidates combined — and has the backing of some of the state’s leading Republicans, including Billy Nungesser, the president of Plaquemines Parish; members of the Bollinger Family, the shipbuilders in Lockport that gives tens of thousands of dollars to GOP candidates; and Pat Brister, the president of St. Tammany Parish and former chairwoman of the state party.
Garret’s campaign manager, Kevin Roig, said in a prepared statement: “From day one, our campaign has remained focused on getting the endorsement of the voters of the 6th district. Our campaign is about putting the people of South Louisiana over politics and party. By any metric, our strategy is working.”
Jenkins said he wouldn’t comment on who was chosen and who was not.
The Nov. 4 election is to replace U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, who is challenging U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu.
The 6th district, which was redrawn in 2011 and now includes more Republicans and more white voters. The 6th is considered by national observers, such as the Cook Political Report, to be one of the safest seats for a GOP candidate. Most of the attention, however, has been on former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards, who is running as a Democrat and is expected to attract the most votes but not a majority.
The Republicans are jockeying to be that party’s leader in the open primary voting because the prevailing thought is that the GOP candidate, whoever that might be, likely can beat Edwards in the head-to-head December runoff.
The 6th District sweeps from the southeast Baton Rouge to the bedroom suburbs west of New Orleans through the bayou communities into parts of Houma. The district’s 13 parishes have 482,421 registered voters, 214,414 of whom live in East Baton Rouge Parish, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State.
The district has 74,267 registered Republicans in East Baton Rouge Parish but more than 100,000 of parish’s voters cast ballots for Republican Cassidy two years ago.
“This is the largest political group in the race, so this is a very important endorsement,” said Claitor, whose state senate district is completely in the 6th congressional district. “I’m pleased to get their seal of approval.”
Dietzel, a young businessman, said in a prepared statement: “The endorsement of our campaign by the EBR Parish Republican Executive Committee shows our district’s leadership believes a new voice from the private sector is needed to bring change to the toxic political culture of Washington, D.C.”
“As the State Representative from Terrebonne Parish and Lafourche Parish, I am humbled and honored to be endorsed by such a distinguished organization as the EBR Republican Party,” Whitney said in a prepared statement. She also is the Republican National Committeewoman from Louisiana.