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Rob Maness 

Advocate Staff Photo by PATRICK DENNIS

Rob Maness has considerably downsized his ambitions. His first run for public office just three years ago was for United States Senate, one of Louisiana's most high-profile and prestigious posts. His latest is for state House, more typically an entry-level office.

Still, the pressure may be getting to him. Locked in a runoff race against Covington City Councilman Mark Wright to replace state treasurer candidate John Schroder in Baton Rouge, Maness this week lost his cool when confronted with a radio caller who lobbed a pretty mild insult, as these things go.

David Bellinger, who goes by the handle "Flaming Liberal," suggested Maness is an "extremist" for criticizing national GOP figures who are seeking to remove Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore from the December special election ballot, following on-the-record allegations that he'd had sexual contact with teenage girls as young as 14. Even Texas Senator Ted Cruz has raised concern, Bellinger said, and "if you're to the right of Ted Cruz, you're an extremist."

That was enough to push Maness, a retired Air Force colonel, over the edge.

"You can blow me and get out of here if you're going to talk like that and call me an extremist," Maness said, but only after noting without a hint of irony that he's "the most investigated, stable man in the country."

Bellinger then crossed the line himself, making an obscene comment about Maness' mother and calling him an "A-hole." But there was no question that Maness took a political debate and turned it into something personal.

And there's no question that, if he winds up in the Legislature, Maness will be around plenty of people who don't share his conservative views, and will be subject to questions and comments that he might find just as infuriating.

It takes a thick skin to serve in public office, whether it be the United States Senate or the state House. I've heard lawmakers called lots of things. "Extremist" is nowhere near as bad as it gets.

Follow Stephanie Grace on Twitter, @stephgracela.