U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, the Benton Republican who represents northwest Louisiana, is facing his first reelection with 60-times more money than his nearest rival.
Johnson has raised $1.1 million, according the Federal Elections Commission, and his Democratic opponent, Ryan Trundle of Shreveport, has raised $18,205.
Consequently, Johnson has spent much of his campaign holding town halls and chatting up newspaper editorial boards about how strong the state’s six relatively short-serving congressmen are.
“Louisiana is poised to have extraordinary clout in the next Congress,” Johnson told the Bossier Press Tribune.
The delegation is "positioned really well to have a lot of influence,” he said to the Lake Charles American Press.
“What we lack in relative seniority and in sheer numbers, we make up in esprit de corps,” Johnson told The Advocate.
The five Republicans and Democratic Congressman Cedric Richmond work together on many issues and have good relationships, he said. With 42 retirements, the entire delegation is expected to move up in seniority – freshman Johnson ranks 396 in the 435-member U.S. House – and take on more substantial roles in House committees, where most of the legislative work is done.
Johnson is running to chair the 150-member Republican Study Committee, a coalition of conservative congressmen where House Majority Whip Steve Scalise got his start.
Scalise, R-Jefferson, isn’t running for House Speaker, but he would likely win if Rep. Kevin McCarthy, of Bakersfield, Calif., stumbles and the GOP retain control of the House after the Nov. 6 election, Johnson said. At the very least, Scalise would likely be elected to the number 2 position in the GOP House leadership.
And Richmond is chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.
Johnson predicts the Republicans will hold the House with a slim majority in the Nov. 6 election. Early voting begins Tuesday and continues daily from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Tuesday, Oct. 30 except for Sunday. Should any candidate fail to win a majority, a runoff election is scheduled for Dec. 8. That’s not expected for the six Louisiana congressmen seeking reelection.
While relatively relaxed – Johnson attended Saturday’s homecoming at Louisiana Tech, which is not his alma mater or in his district – Trundle is arguing for a $15 minimum wage, federal legalization of marijuana and requiring all political action committees to disclose who is contributing.
Trundle worked as data manager on the presidential campaign of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. He has worked as a cowboy, a beverage supervisor at Bossier City casino and quit his job as foreman in Dodge dealership’s service department to take on Johnson.
“Money and politics have corrupted everything we do. We need a congress that works for all of us, not just the 1 percent,” Trundle told about 50 people at an event held last week at Bossier Parish Community College and posted on his Facebook page.
Johnson also is facing Mark David Halverson, No Party-Bossier City, who hasn’t raised enough money to report to the Federal Elections Commission.
Before being elected to Congress in 2016, Johnson was a state representative in 2015 and 2016. He also was a lawyer working for organizations that push a conservative religious agenda in the courts. He worked with Kyle Duncan, now a judge on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, defending the state’s ban on same-sex marriage. He got a business degree and a law degree at LSU.
In Congress, Johnson has supported President Donald Trump’s stands on immigration. He sponsored legislation that would require a wall to be built along the U.S.’s border with Mexico and would tighten the “credible fear” definitions used by immigrants seeking asylum. A member of the House’s subcommittee on immigration, Johnson also would deny federal funding to “Sanctuary Cities,” where law enforcement limits their cooperation with the national government's effort to enforce immigration laws.
“I believe the two greatest threats to our liberty today are: 1) the eroding foundations of religion and morality in America; and 2) our exploding federal debt,” Johnson wrote in a Louisiana Family Forum questionnaire.
Almost two-thirds of the 4th Congressional district’s registered voters are white, and 42 percent are over the age of 55. Of the 15 parishes in the district only Caddo did not back Trump in 2016.
And Trump is aware of how he did in each parish of northwest Louisiana, Johnson said, adding that he finds the president accessible and easy to talk to.
On his way down the aisle in the U.S. House to give his first “State of the Union” address in January 2017, Trump stopped to wish Johnson happy birthday.