All Kinds Of Developments In The Congressional Races

The big news this morning, which has been brewing at least since the weekend, is that state sen. Rick Ward is pulling out of the race for the 6th District congressional seat which will be coming open next year with Rep. Bill Cassidy running against Mary Landrieu for the U.S. Senate.

The Port Allen Republican said the decision was based on a wish to remain local during his children’s “formative years.”

“While considering the amount of time I will spend campaigning for Congress over the next year and serving in Congress afterwards, it has become very apparent to me that the hours and days away from my family will be extraordinary,” Ward said in a statement.

“I strongly believe I need to spend as much time with (my children) as possible during their formative years. For this reason, I will not be a candidate for Congress,” he added. His children are 6, 4 and 22 months.

There are rumors of more behind that, but they’re not important at this point.

Part of Ward’s problem was, actually, his party switch. It’s getting harder for Democrats to flip to the GOP and find a warm embrace in the party; there are so many recent converts and conservatism is so ascendant in Louisiana right now that unless the party-flipper in question is an Elbert Guillory, who brings a lot to the table, the mindset of your long-time Republicans is that these turncoats dilute the brand. That they’re a little like illegal immigrants; they’re not supposed to be here, but we can’t get rid of them, and what are they doing reaping all the benefits of being here?

Which is not a repudiation of the big-tent mentality; as voters, they’re welcome. As political leaders, not so much.

Ward ran into some of this when he went around in search of big donors. The other two Republicans in the race, Paul Dietzel and Ryan Heck, have always been Republicans and their conservatism is unchallenged. Dietzel and Heck are in the very early stages of their political careers and both need development as congressional candidates (which is not a criticism, just an observation well more than a year out from Election Day), but neither one are burdened by a “33” score from LABI like Ward is. So to switch parties and then try to build support among lifelong conservatives who are activists or donors when there are real conservatives in the race is tough.

Not to mention Ward has trouble back home in his Senate district, which includes Port Allen and parts west of it. The previous occupier of that seat is Rob Marionneaux, one of the old-time Democrat populists in the state senate, and Marionneaux is going to run for that seat in 2015. He will also come after Ward with all the dirt he can; there is some word that he’s been spreading nasty rumors about Ward already. And what that means is the Ward-Marionneaux race in two years will be an all-out war like nothing we’ve seen in a state Senate race in a long time.

The smart money says that race will have lots of new entrants in it shortly. Most of the commonly bandied-about names – state reps. Steve Carter, Hunter Greene and Eric Ponti, state sen. Dan Claitor, Livingston Parish assessor Jeff Taylor and Denham Springs state rep. Clay Schexnayder being good examples – are still out there. And so is Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, whose name comes up for almost every political seat imaginable these days.

But while the new Republican is out in the 6th District race, an old Republican is in up the river in the 5th District race.

Clyde Holloway, one of the party’s stalwarts for decades and a former gubernatorial candidate in the infamous Edwin Edwards-David Duke race of 1991, threw his hat into the ring yesterday for Rodney Alexander’s congressional seat. Holloway, who currently occupies a spot on the Public Service Commission and formerly held Louisiana’s 8th District seat from 1987-1993, until that seat was lost in redistricting. He then lost a close race to Richard Baker for the redrawn 6th District seat in 1992, a less-close race to Jimmy Hayes for the 4th District seat in 1994 and finished third behind John Cooksey and Francis Thompson for the 5th District seat in 1996. Holloway also ran for the 5th District seat in 2002, when Cooksey took a shot at Landrieu’s Senate seat that year, and finished third again behind Rodney Alexander and Lee Fletcher. And in 2003 he ran for Lt. Governor against Mitch Landrieu and got drummed.

Holloway’s entry into this year’s 5th District race is interesting, in that it’s tough to figure his path to victory. He can position himself to the right of the GOP frontrunner Neil Riser, and decry Riser’s close relationship with Gov. Bobby Jindal’s camp and the “cocked hat” deal cut to get him the seat, etc. But that’s the territory that state rep. Jay Morris, who was supposed to qualify sometime today, was going to occupy.

And with Holloway getting into the race, the non-Riser Republican vote is now split in the same way that the Democrat vote is split. Namely, the 5th District is comprised of two major population centers; Monroe and Alexandria. Riser, from Columbia, sits between them. But on the Democrat side you’ve got Monroe mayor Jamie Mayo drawing mostly black votes (though he’s saddled with a local competitor in state rep. Marcus Hunter), and state rep. Robert Johnson, who hails from Avoyelles Parish but largely draws votes in Alexandria. Morris is in Monroe and Holloway is in Forest Hill, just south of Alexandria.

It makes for a crowded field, and relatively highly segmented. Which of the four segments is larger; Monroe Democrats, Alexandria Democrats, Monroe anti-Riser/Jindal Republicans or Alexandria anti-Riser/Jindal Republicans? Find the answer to that and you’ll know who will be in the runoff with Riser.

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