Country doctor in 5th District runoff _lowres

Associated Press Photo by MARGARET CROFT -- Candidate for Louisiana's 5th Congressional District Dr. Ralph Abraham sees patients like Candy Massey in his Mangham clinic in 2014.

Pundits around the country focused on the kissing congressman and the “Duck Dynasty” cousin, but it was a country doctor who squeaked into the 5th Congressional District runoff.

And Dr. Ralph Abraham, 60, was back in his Mangham clinic Wednesday treating patients.

“I got to take care of them, they take care of me,” Abraham said. As one of the few physicians in the rural area, he has treated a good many people in those parts.

“Starting tomorrow, we’re going to start hitting the individual parishes and individual persons just like we did in the primary. It worked before, and it’ll work again,” he said.

Most pollsters expected Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, an African-American Democrat, to lead the balloting and find a place in the runoff. The only question was which of the six Republicans would join him.

Abraham polled 1,860 votes more than Zach Dasher, whose uncle is Duck Commander’s Phil Robertson in the cable television reality series “Duck Dynasty.” The incumbent, U.S. Rep. Vance McAllister, R-Swartz, came in fourth with 11 percent of the vote, 26,605 — more than the 18,839 that got him into the runoff in the October 2013 special election to replace Rodney Alexander, but half of what he received to win the seat in the November 2013 runoff.

Last year, McAllister, running as a Christian conservative with strong “family values,” had the backing of the Robertson family. Security camera images of McAllister kissing a married aide went viral and fed many a late-night comedian’s monologue.

Abraham has been involved in GOP politics for some years and has been a member of the Republican State Central Committee.

Abraham is facing Mayo, who has run Monroe City Hall for a dozen years, attracting new businesses and activities that provide a bright economic spot in a region that ranks among the poorest in America.

“Dr. Ralph Abraham is in a very, very good position in the 5th Congressional District,” said Joshua Stockley, who teaches political science at the University of Louisiana at Monroe. “He’s in a great position. He’s well-funded. He has great name recognition. He performed strongly throughout the district.”

The 5th District covers northeast and central Louisiana along with the Florida parishes bordering Mississippi. Apart from Monroe and Alexandria, most of the 24 parishes are rural, dependent on agriculture and timber.

“The thing I learned during the campaign is 5th District is the largest row crop district in the country,” Abraham said.

Politicking in an agricultural region differs. Television commercials, big endorsements, direct mail flyers and robocalls don’t really work that well in the country.

“You win elections up here by actually going out and meeting the people and looking them in the eye,” Abraham said. Consequently, he drove a lot of miles and attended a lot of Lion’s Club meetings.

A Southern tradition for many men is to have coffee or breakfast every morning with their friends. Abraham said that every morning, he stopped at a McDonald’s or a cafe with a lot a of pickups out front.

Abraham recalled driving near Jena and passing six men working on a hay rake in the middle of a field. “I went out there and before I left, they were voting for me. That’s the kind of politicking I like,” he said.