An inordinate number of current and former state lawmakers are squaring off for seats in the Louisiana Senate in the Oct. 12 primary, putting a strain on longtime personal and professional friendships that date back 40 years.
Reps. Steve Carter and Franklin Foil, both Baton Rouge Republicans, are longtime friends, House seatmates for 12 years and attend the same church – First Presbyterian.
But Foil's followers are angry that Carter entered a five-person Senate race after, they say, indicating he had no such plans.
"It is odd that he is running against me," Foil said of Carter, who also hopes to succeed Republican Sen. Dan Claitor for the southeast Baton Rouge post.
Voters will cast ballots in 27 Senate contests statewide, with 1 in 3 featuring either two House incumbents running for the same post or a former lawmaker competing with an incumbent House member.
Five contests pit House incumbents against each other. Four feature former lawmakers in a race with House incumbent aiming for the Senate.
"I think everybody feels awkward about these things," said Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, who is competing with a House colleague himself for a Senate seat.
Most of the unusual match-ups stem from term limits, which forces many House and Senate members out of their chambers at the same time, boosting chances they will file for the same seat.
Former state Sen. Cleo Fields and Rep. Patricia Smith, both Baton Rouge Democrats, are running for the Senate, 16 years after Fields defeated Smith when he was the incumbent senator.
"I consider her a nice person," Fields said of Smith. "I am not going to say anything negative about her."
Smith, who hopes to succeed Sen. Yvonne Colomb, appeared to take a swipe at previous controversies around Fields.
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"People know that I am an honest person, that I have a lot of integrity," she said.
Reps. Joseph Bouie and John Bagneris, New Orleans Democrats, are longtime friends and House colleagues who went to college together four decades ago.
Now they both hope to succeed Sen. J.P. Morrell, who like Claitor and others is being forced out by the cap on three, four-year terms in each chamber.
"I am too old for him to have the seat and he is too old to wait for me to have the seat," Bagneris said with a laugh.
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Said Bouie, "I don't view it as we are running against each other. We are running for the same seat."
In other cases there is an edge to the race, regardless of any previous ties in the Legislature.
Former state Sen. Troy Brown, who resigned from the Senate in 2017 after pleading no contest twice in five months to misdemeanor charges related to domestic abuse, said his successor and former colleague – Sen. Ed Price – has little to show for his tenure.
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'Unfortunately in the last two years I have not seen a lot of accomplishments," said Brown, a Democrat.
Price, a Gonzales Democrat, said a cloud hovers over Brown after his legal problems.
"As I tell everybody I guess he has a right to run," said Price, who like Brown is a Democrat.
Sen. Jim Fannin, R-Jonesboro, like Foil's camp, feels betrayed that a colleague challenged his candidacy.
Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, is one of two Fannin challengers.
His entry was a surprise.
"At the end of the session he (Morris) said 'Look, I am running for re-election, I am not going to run against you,'" Fannin recalled. "Within a week he had."
Morris did not return two calls for comment.
Carter said he entered the race after being encouraged to do so by community leaders.
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"I think Franklin is a great guy," he said. "I don't look at it as me and him running against each other."
Foil said he is steering clear of any criticism of Carter.
"I am intentionally trying to keep my message to what I have done and what my accomplishments have been and also give a vision of what I want to do in the Senate," he said.
Democratic Beverly Brooks Thompson, Republican Bob Bell and Libertarian Everett Baudean are hoping they benefit from anti-incumbent sentiment among voters, or disgust with higher education or other cuts while Carter and Foil served.
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Johnson is competing with Rep. Bernard LeBas, D-Ville Platte.
They hope to succeed Senate Finance Committee Chairman Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte.
"It is not something we would have wanted or desired and certainly hoped things would have been different," Johnson said. "But it is what it is."
LeBas did not return a call for comment.
Republican Heather Cloud, former mayor of Turkey Creek and the third candidate in the race, said running against two House incumbents carries advantages.
"People are ready for a change," Cloud said. "And they want new faces. They are tired of Louisiana living from crisis to crisis."
Aside from the 27 contested races 12 candidates won elections outright when they were the lone candidates for the Senate.
Reps. Johnny Guinn, R-Jennings and Mark Abraham, R-Lake Charles, both hope to succeed Sen. Dan "Blade" Morrish, R-Lake Charles.
"It is just part of the system, part of what is allowed in politics," said Guinn, who is hobbled with a broken ankle. "Nobody said politics is very nice."
Said Abraham, "We laugh, we pick at each other about what we are doing in the campaign. But we know whatever happens we are okay with it."
Former Rep. Damone Baldone, R-Houma, is competing against ex-colleague Rep. Jerry "Truck" Gisclair, D-Larose, to succeed Norby Chabert.
"Truck is a good friend," Baldone said. "It seems like it is easier when somebody is attacking you."
Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, is trying to overcome former Rep. Brett Geymann, R-Lake Charles, for the post being vacated by Sen. John Smith, D-Leesville.
Armes said years ago Geymann helped him land a spot on the influential House Appropriations Committee.
"I don't have a problem with Brett at all," Armes said. "He is my friend."