WASHINGTON – Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo said Friday that he will join the crowded field of candidates vying to replace U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander in the 5th congressional district.

The 12-year Democratic mayor joins a pool of candidates that includes state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, and state Reps. Jay Morris, R-Monroe; Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and Robert Johnson, D-Marksville. Other businessmen, lawyers and educational leaders are still deciding on whether to qualify next week for the fast-approaching Oct. 19 open primary special election.

Alexander, R-Quitman, surprised many last week by taking a cabinet job in the Jindal administration overseeing veterans’ affairs.

Riser was the first to announce his intentions and quickly launched a website and received the endorsements of several members of the Louisiana congressional delegation. However, that brought allegations of a coordinated effort by Jindal and Alexander to prop up Riser, which the involved parties denied.

Mayo has said he wanted to run, but was still weighing his options until pulling the trigger on Friday.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity to appeal to the people of the 5th congressional district,” Mayo told The Advocate prior to his official announcement Friday afternoon.

Mayo said the race will not be about “blue” or “red” politics. “My focus is going to be on green,” he said, about putting the focus on economic development, education, health care and removing the “stigma” of being in one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation.

“It was my hope there would be one candidate for the Democratic Party, but it appears that is not going to happen. I did consider not running because of that,” Mayo said.

But he argued that the overwhelming encouragement he received convinced him to enter the race and to push for some of the progress made in Monroe throughout the entire district.

The 5th District is one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation. It covers all or part of 24 parishes across northeast Louisiana, through much of central Louisiana, across the northern Baton Rouge metro area — though not East Baton Rouge Parish itself — along the state line with Mississippi through the Florida Parishes to Washington Parish at the toe of the boot.

The secretary of state reported 461,109 registered voters in the district, 309,422 of whom are white and 132,156 are registered as Republicans.

Monroe lawyer Charles Kincade had originally expressed his intent to run as an “unabashed” liberal Democrat. But, on Friday, Kincade said he is opting out and instead endorsed Mayo.

Kincade said it is “logistically impossible” for someone from outside of politics to win in such a short timeframe.

“Jindal and Alexander are trying to handpick the successor,” Kincade said. “It’s just a bad situation.”

There are still a few other potential candidates who are yet to decide or announce their intentions.

Democratic Alexandria Mayor Jacque Roy is remaining mum as is Republican Monroe attorney Jeff Guerriero.

Two other potential GOP candidates, Ouachita Parish Schools Superintendent Bob Webber and Alexandria lawyer Ed Tarpley, said they plan to decide over the weekend.