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Sen. Rick Ward, R-Port Allen, left, and Rep. Chad Brown, D-Plaquemine, right talk on opening day of the 2022 General Session of the Louisiana Legislature, Monday, March 14, 2022, in Baton Rouge, La.

The news that state Sen. Rick Ward is stepping down now, a year before his term ends, has at least two candidates planning to run for the seat.

Rep. Jeremy LaCombe is a 44-year-old Democrat whose politics aren’t much different than those of Ward, a 39-year-old Republican from Port Allen.

Both are known for working with moderates of the other political party.

“I’m planning to run, but I haven’t announced yet,” said LaCombe, an attorney and co-owner of an oil industry service company who lives in New Roads. He noted that his House district overlaps with about 40% of the Senate district.

LaCombe was elected to the House in a special election in early 2019 to replace Major Thibaut, who gave up his seat after being elected as Pointe Coupee Parish president. LaCombe then won the House seat for a full term in the fall of 2019.

LaCombe said he would continue Ward’s emphasis on bringing road projects to the nine-parish district that stretches diagonally from St. Martin Parish to St. Helena Parish.

Ward announced on June 1 that he is stepping down to do lobbying and public relations work, while keeping his law practice with Tony Clayton, the local district attorney.

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While LaCombe has yet to announce, Caleb Kleinpeter is already running to replace Ward.

Kleinpeter, a 40-year-old pipeline technician, is a first-term Republican member of the West Baton Rouge Parish Council. He lives in Port Allen.

Like LaCombe, Kleinpeter said his emphasis would be on pushing forward the La. Hwy. 415 connector that will link to La. Hwy. 1 just south of Interstate 10 and on plans to build a new bridge over the Mississippi River in Baton Rouge.

Rob Marionneaux, who held the Senate seat before Ward, told that he is also eyeing the race, but he could not be reached.

Like other White-majority districts throughout Louisiana, Senate District 17 has been trending Republican, but a Democrat could win it.

Then-President Donald Trump carried the district with 61% of the vote in 2020 over Joe Biden, said John Couvillon, a Baton Rouge-based pollster and demographer. But Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, carried the district with 55% of the vote when he ran for re-election in 2019.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, a Republican, won Senate District 17 in 2014 when he first won election, with 52% of the vote over then-Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Democrat, Couvillon said.

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