Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, as anticipated, on Tuesday night won a spot in in the runoff to represent Acadiana in Congress.
But with about half the vote counted, it appears that the Breaux Bridge Republican he will face Republican Clay Higgins, of Opelousas, in the Dec. 10 general election.
Acadiana’s 3rd District seat is being vacated by 11-year incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany Jr., R-Lafayette, who ran for the U.S. Senate instead.
Eight Republicans, two Democrats, a Libertarian and one candidate running without party affiliation threw their hats in the ring. But in many ways the race is among four candidates vying for the right to challenge Angelle. That the candidates spent about $2.5 million of the $3 million they collectively raised going into the final weekend before primary voting is an indication of competitiveness. Usually, campaigns hold much more in reserve.
Running for his first elective office, Higgins, spent about $171,000 on the campaign. Higgins, known as the Cajun John Wayne for his tough-talking Crime Stopper reports, has an international following, and his YouTube videos attract several hundred thousand views.
Other Republicans in the race are Greg Ellison, a former soldier who started a Lafayette oil and gas firm, has spent $427,147 on his first run for public office. Gus Rantz, a former college baseball pitcher who runs a health care company in Lafayette and also is making his first bid for office, spent $630,210.
From the western part of the district around Lake Charles is former state Rep. Brett F. Geymann, a gregarious Republican who led a conservative wing in the Louisiana House to stop using one-time money for recurring expenses in the budget and to block the Common Core school standards. He spent about $133,000 but knocked on doors and visited clubs in hoped that, given the number of candidates, a solidified western vote would be enough for the runoff.
But black voters, most of whom are Democrats, make up 24 percent of the 3rd District’s registered voters. As the only black candidate in the race, New Iberia insurance salesman Larry Rader, but he was polling at less than 10 percent of the ballots counted. He is a leader on the board that oversees the Port of Iberia, a hub for the offshore oil industry.
Differing from his GOP rivals, all of whom oppose the the federal health care law and seek limits on immigration, Rader alone champions equal pay, raising the minimum wage and pursuing nonpolluting energy options, such as wind and solar.
The region that once was the electoral base of Gov. Edwin W. Edwards has shifted dramatically to the right.
Of the 504,347 people registered to vote in the Nov. 8 election, 72 percent are white and 58 percent are Republicans or independents. In 2012, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney polled two-thirds of the ballots over President Barack Obama.
The current campaign came amid trying times. A 6.7 percent unemployment rate and wariness about the energy economy cut into fundraising. Severe flooding in August postponed festivals, where much of the retail campaigning takes place, and other events as the candidates essentially called a cease-fire for several weeks.