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Cleo Fields answers a question while participating in a forum between him and Pat Smith at the Press Club Monday Sept. 30, 2019, in Baton Rouge, La. The pair are running for a state senate seat.

Former state Sen. Cleo Fields is returning to the Louisiana Senate after defeating fellow Democrat and term-limited state Rep. Patricia Smith on Saturday for the District 14 seat.

Fields' win ends a 12-year hiatus from public office.

Fields, 56, regained the Senate seat he first held for five years, before he was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1992. He made an unsuccessful bid for governor in 1995, was elected to the Senate a second time in 1997 and served until 2007 before being forced out by term limits.

Smith, 73, has been in the House since 2008.

In 2003, then-state Sen. Fields easily fended off a challenge from Smith, a former member of the East Baton Rouge Parish School Board.

Senate District 14 is located entirely in East Baton Rouge Parish, covering much of the Southern University and LSU campuses as well as the State Capitol and downtown Baton Rouge. The district also includes the low-income neighborhoods next to the petrochemical plants in north Baton Rouge as well as the Gardere area in south Baton Rouge. Two-thirds of the registered voters are African American, and 60% are Democrats.

Fields, a trial attorney who calls himself as a coalition builder, said during the campaign that Smith's contention that he doesn't really live in the senatorial district was merely a desperate attempt to district voters from the real issues facing the district, such as education.

Smith argued Fields primarily relies on a second home near the Country Club of Louisiana off Highland Road in a wealthy part of southeast Baton Rouge, far from his official residence in north Baton Rouge on Hollywood Street, where he claims his homestead exemption.

Fields, the brother of state District Judge Wilson Fields, a former state senator himself, founded the nonprofit Louisiana Leadership Institute in 1993 to promote academic and leadership skills for youngsters.

Smith, a veteran member of the House Education Committee, had championed her role in overhauling state criminal justice rules, promoting Medicaid expansion before Gov. John Bel Edwards did so in 2016, and sponsoring a 2018 bill to restore voting rights for some felons.

The Senate post that Fields and Smith pursued is held by state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, a Baton Rouge Democrat who is being forced out by term limits.

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AGE: 56

RESIDES: Baton Rouge

EDUCATION: McKinley High School; Southern University; Southern University Law Center

PROFESSIONAL: Lawyer; founder of Louisiana Leadership Institute


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