WASHINGTON — Voters in all six of Louisiana’s congressional districts re-elected their incumbent congressmen, sending the state’s five Republicans and one Democrat back to Washington for new two-year terms.
The sweep for the incumbents was largely expected with all six congressmen running for re-election and the state’s congressional districts sharply tilted along partisan lines.
Republicans Ralph Abraham, of Alto; Garret Graves, of Baton Rouge; Clay Higgins, of Port Barre; Mike Johnson, of Bossier; and Steve Scalise, of Jefferson Parish, each easily defeated their challengers to win without a runoff. So did Cedric Richmond, of New Orleans, the state’s lone Democrat in Washington.
Higgins, who swept into office as a political outsider in 2016 by knocking off longtime Acadiana Republican politico Scott Angelle, had perhaps the toughest road to re-election, facing six opponents.
“I stand before you still a very humbled man,” Higgins told supporters Tuesday night, “but, damn, if we didn’t do what they said we couldn’t do tonight.”
The challengers, on both the right and left, raised substantial sums to campaign against Higgins, a 57-year-old former St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office spokesman who rose to viral fame through tough-talking Crime Stoppers segments on local TV.
But Higgins, whom President Donald Trump endorsed with a tweet earlier this year, managed to beat all six opponents to claim outright victory and avoid a runoff.
Although their own re-elections weren’t in significant doubt, the outcome of Tuesday’s vote nationwide presents significant implications for several Louisiana lawmakers with other political ambitions. A strong Democratic showing appeared almost certain to flip control of the U.S. House of Representatives.
Scalise, who as majority whip is the current No. 3 Republican in the House, stands to lose significant clout with Republicans out of power. If Republicans had held the majority, Scalise was almost certain to move up the leadership ranks with Speaker Paul Ryan, a Republican from Wisconsin, retiring.
Instead, Scalise’s political future is now an open question. He could likely hold on as House minority whip or potentially challenge current House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, for the leadership of the minority.
In a speech thanking his supporters for returning him to Washington, Scalise touted the nation's strong economy and said he was hopeful that the Louisiana delegation could continue to work together.
“We work incredibly well together. This is a tradition that goes back generations,” Scalise said. “When it comes to issues that are important to the state of Louisiana, Republican or Democrat, we always come together and will continue to come together on issues that are critical to our state.”
The national Democratic gains bode well for Richmond, the state’s lone Democrat in Washington and the outgoing chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, who’ll likely be in line for a promotion. Richmond has positioned the influential and generally tight-knit caucus to be a potential powerbroker in settling Democratic leadership contests.
Richmond said the Democratic Party did well but could have fared even better if it had dealt with issues that connect with everyday people.
“We did a much better job of messaging. I think that people who are not necessarily always voting at midterms, it’s not the voter’s fault,” he told WWL-TV in New Orleans. “It’s our fault because we did not give them a message that inspired them to vote.”
Louisiana’s other four congressional Republicans — Abraham, Graves, Higgins and Johnson — could also see their clout diminished with their party out of power.
In a video posted to his Facebook page Tuesday night, Abraham promised to push for better health care and benefits for military veterans as well as agricultural measures to benefit local farmers. He also acknowledged the new controlling majority Democrats will have in the House.
“We’ve got a little bit of a challenge ahead of us,” he said. “We’ve got to find common ground with those on the other side of the aisle.”
Graves anticipated a different political landscape over the next two years with Democrats controlling the lower chamber.
"It will change the chemistry of the House of Representatives and Congress as a whole, but it does not mean we can't continue working," he said.
Advocate reporters Caroline Grueskin, Terry Jones and David Mitchell contributed to this report from Baton Rouge.