As qualifying for this fall’s federal elections enters its last day Friday, most of the announced candidates have paid their fees and signed the papers to get their names on the Nov. 8 ballot.
Most of the expected candidates for the U.S. Senate and U.S. House races already have signed up – 21 in the U.S. Senate race alone. But there could be some drama on the final day as at least one of the candidates returning from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland was having trouble getting on a flight Thursday night.
Clay Higgins, who is running for the southwest Louisiana 3rd U.S. Congressional District seat, was looking into the possibility of making the 17-hour, 1,100-mile drive from Cleveland to Baton Rouge, according to his staff. He has until 4:30 p.m. Friday, when qualifying period ends.
Tea party Republican Rob Maness, who has been in Cleveland raising money at the national convention, is expected to qualify for the U.S. Senate race on Friday morning.
Rob Maness, a candidate for the U.S. Senate in Louisiana, is holding campaign fundraisers at…
Higgins is stuck in Cleveland-Hopkins International Airport where dozens of flights have been delayed, largely because the inbound flights have had to detour because of foul weather.
“Dark forces are stopping us,” Higgins said on video posted to his Facebook Thursday evening. “Will I make it? We’ll see.”
He’s a former St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy – currently a marshal in Lafayette – who is internationally known for his tough talking “Crime Stoppers” episodes on TV news in Acadiana.
If Higgins makes it in time, he will join a field that had 11 candidates at the end of the second day of qualifying Thursday.
The district seat will be vacant for the first time in 12 years as incumbent U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, is running for the U.S. Senate seat that David Vitter is giving up at the end of his term in January.
Seven of the 3rd District candidates are Republicans: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, of Breaux Bridge; Bryan Barrilleaux, a physician from Lake Charles, Greg Ellison, who owns an oil and gas company in Lafayette; Brett Geymann, a former Lake Charles legislator; Gus Rantz, who runs a health care company in Lafayette; Grover Joseph Rees, a longtime congressional staffer and former U.S. ambassador from Breaux Bridge; and Herman Vidrine, of Lafayette.
The two Democrats running are Jacob “Dorian Phibian” Hebert, an artist and musician from Lafayette; and Larry Rader, who sells insurance in New Iberia.
Libertarian Guy McLendon, a computer technician from Sulphur; and Kenny Scelfo Sr., no party affiliation from Breaux Bridge, also have signed up to run.
Eight candidates qualified to run for the northwest Louisiana 4th Congressional District, the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, another of the Senate candidates.
Republican Congressman Garret Graves, who represents the Baton Rouge-based 6th U.S. Congressional District, picked up two opponents in his first reelection bid. As of Thursday, Richard Lieberman, who has run in previous elections, qualified as Democrat from LaPlace; and Devin Lance Graham, who worked on the campaigns of Ascension Parish President Kenny Matassa, qualified to run without party affiliation from Prairieville.
For a second day, most of the candidates for seats in the two chambers of the United States Congress say they are running against Washington, D.C. and establishment politics, regardless of how much – or little – government experience they have. This is the season to run as renegade – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders did pretty well.
Regardless of experience, the candidates for the U.S. Senate freely brandished their anti-establishment credentials.
“We can’t continue to elect the same folks. We’ll get the same results,” said Lafayette oilman Josh Pellerin, who signed up Thursday to run for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat. “We need an intervention.”
Pellerin, who switched from the GOP last year, said he expects to spend more $1 million in the race, most of which he’ll put up himself, in his first political foray.
“The American Dream is in jeopardy,” state Treasurer John Kennedy said after qualifying to run as a Republican in the Senate race.
Kennedy blamed both Democrats and Republicans for the anger among the electorate. “I’m not part of the club in Baton Rouge and I do not intend to be part of the club in Washington, D.C.," said Kennedy, who has held statewide elected office since 2000 and has run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate as a Democrat in 2004 and as a Republican in 2008.
Fresh from the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, R-Minden, arrived early and waited in the parking lot Wednesday morning to be the first to qualify in the Senate race. He gave his bonafides as being a thorn in the side of House Democrats as well as a congressman who angers GOP leadership, mentioning losing control of an anti-abortion bill because House leaders were angered at him.
“Our message is that Washington needs to change,” Fleming said. “Someone has to be willing to speak truth to power.”
One of those leaders is U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, the Jefferson Republican who represents suburban New Orleans.
He arrived at the Secretary of State’s Office direct from Cleveland with a security team in tow – assigned to him as the third highest ranking official in the U.S. House.
Scalise talked up the top of the GOP ticket saying Trump had tapped into widespread anger about the economy, border security and the general direction of the country. That’s why there’s been such an outpouring of outsider politics, he said.
In his own race, Scalise called David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who has spoken of challenging him, a racist with anti-Semitic, anti-Catholic views.
Duke had not yet shown up to qualify by the time the doors closed Thursday, but Louisiana’s highest ranking congressman already has picked up three challengers, including Howard Kearny, a Libertarian from Mandeville, and Chuemai Yang, who is running without party affiliation from Kenner.
“Steve Scalise is literally ‘the establishment’,” said Dr. Joe Swider, a New Orleans psychiatrist who is Scalise’s third challenger.
Swider described himself as a conservative Democrat and argued that an outsider could ensure that the needs of everyday people are met.
Congressman Boustany was one of the few candidates who touched only lightly on the outsider theme, arguing that espousing conservative values was not enough.
“People across the state are really tired of people who talk a lot but never get anything accomplished,” said Lafayette Republican who was elected to Congress 12 years ago and has the largest campaign war chest in the Senate race.
Caroline Fayard, a Democratic New Orleans attorney running for the U.S. Senate, described herself as a conservative pro-life Democrat. She’s counsel to and co-founder of Glo Airlines, which services destinations in Louisiana, Tennessee, Florida and Arkansas.
Fayard said Louisiana voters are looking for a senator that can build coalitions among the different factions. “People are looking past gimmicks,” she said.
Both she and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell – the two best-funded Democrats in the Senate race – back a platform that includes equal pay for men and women as well as an increase in the minimum wage.
Campbell, a farmer and businessman from Bossier Parish, has held public office since 1976, first as a state senator and since 2003 as one the five elected commissioners who set the rates utility companies can charge their customers each month. But he has made something of a career out of being a political maverick, opposing the policies of Entergy and the other big corporations that sell natural gas and electricity in Louisiana.
"We've had too many politicians willing to pander to the special interests," Campbell said.
Troy Hebert, from Jeanerette, came in saying he had no party affiliation to underscore his independence.
As a state legislator, Gov. Kathleen Blanco had him booted from a committee chairmanship for not going along with a bill she wanted. He served as the head of the state alcohol and tobacco control board under Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Hebert said he’d pattern his campaign after Trump’s outsider insurgency, going so far as to fund the effort himself.
Former Republican Congressman Joseph Cao, of Harvey, also qualified, saying independents are attracted to his record. He was a one-term congressman who replaced Rep. Bill Jefferson, but lost his reelection to U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans.
Kaitlin Marone, of New Orleans, qualified to run without party affiliation, saying nobody is paying attention to the race and she didn't want the Republican Party to appoint whoever they wanted to the post.
Abhay Patel, a New Orleans businessman, also qualified to run for the Senate as a Republican. He proclaimed: “I’m the only candidate who has never run for office before.”
"I am not a politician and I will never be a politician," said Derrick Edwards, a New Orleans Democratic lawyer.
Also qualifying to run for the U.S. Senate was Gary Landrieu, a Democrat from New Orleans; Bob Lang, NoParty-Natchitoches; Charles Marsala, R-Metairie; perennial Democratic candidate Vinny Mendoza, of Ponchatoula; Arden Wells, another Ponchatoula resident but running without party affiliation; Peter Williams, a Democrat from Lettsworth; and Donald Crawdaddy Crawford, R-Covington.
In all, seven Democrats, seven Republicans, and five without a party affiliation, so far, have signed up to run for the Senate. The Libertarian Party also split its vote with two candidates: LeRoy Gilliam, of Washington, La., and Thomas Clements, of Lafayette. Both pushed their outsider credentials.
The race for the 2nd U.S. Congressional District followed more traditional lines of big name candidates with extensive public service résumés taking pot shots at one another.
Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden arrived in a tan Hawaiian shirt to fill out the paperwork and pay the fees to run for the seat presently held by Richmond since 2011.
The district was drawn to ensure an African-American majority and stretches up the Mississippi River from New Orleans to north Baton Rouge.
Holden, who is term limited and must leave office in January, says he has been approached by a number of constituents who felt that Richmond was not doing his job, like attracting business to the district.
“If there wasn’t a problem, I wouldn’t be running,” Holden said, “The people of Baton Rouge have mostly been in the lost and found section” for Richmond.
Richmond suggested that Holden should resign as mayor of Baton Rouge if he planned to run for Congress. The tensions that have grown from the police shooting of Alton Sterling followed by protests and the murder of three law enforcement officers requires the focus of a full-time mayor, he said.
Richmond, whose district includes north Baton Rouge, said Gov. John Bel Edwards showed real leadership during the crisis this month “because the mayor was locked in his home.”
Check back later with The Advocate for more details.