BAYHAM: The Battle For The 5th District

Congressman Rodney Alexander surprised most folks (though it is starting to appear not all folks) when he announced his decision to not seek re-election in 2014, thus creating an open election in the November 2014 race for US Representative from the 5th District.

But not so fast.

Alexander then followed that up with another surprise by stating that he was going to leave Washington early to take a position in the Jindal Administration, thus creating a vacancy and causing a special election for a district that reaches from Arkansas to Washington Parish.

The Party Favorite

Republican State Senator Neil Riser of Columbia did not waste time expressing his intention to seek the vacated northeast Louisiana congressional seat. Nor have big guns within the GOP waited long to clamber aboard.

Riser is close with the state GOP leadership from his time on the state committee and he picked up the support of three members of the state’s congressional delegation. Word is that Riser’s campaign will include individuals close with Governor Bobby Jindal’s political operation.

The 51 year-old funeral home operator, whose senate district touches ten parishes, gained some positive publicity in 2012 when he pushed through an NRA-blessed state constitutional amendment that “beefed up” gun rights, more or less adding an exclamation point to existing pro-gun organic language.

With so many pieces quickly falling into place it would seem Riser has the momentum to easily plow his way to Washington, though the field has not yet been removed of all political stones.

Don’t Call It A Comeback?

“For those who have inquired… this time, I AM still open to, and considering a run for the open seat in Congress,” was posted under PSC member Clyde Holloway’s Facebook account last week.

Clyde was not the only Holloway to express thoughts about a congressional race on the public social medium.

Catherine Holloway chimed in with the following post below her husband’s status update: “You better NOT even consider it.” The caps were Mrs. Holloway’s.

Holloway had served in Congress from 1987 to 1993, having represented the late 8th congressional district. After losing a close race with fellow Republican incumbent Richard Baker for the merged 6th District, Holloway has made several unsuccessful attempts to go back to Capitol Hill, falling agonizingly short a few times.

But if Holloway were to jump into this race, he would have something going for him that he lacked in his other post-1992 bids: a political base. Holloway serves on the Public Service Commissioner, which in the days prior to Edwin Edwards, was the preferred springboard to higher office in Louisiana because of the large territory covered by the districts and the greater potential to raise money.

Having shaken off the perennial candidate stink that undermined him in his losing congressional runs combined with high name recognition and congressional experience, Holloway would be a strong contender for the open seat.

The downside for Holloway aside from professed, though since deleted, opposition by his wife, is his age (69).

Seeking a Promotion?

Alexander’s Chief of Staff Adam Terry (not to be confused with the former NFL tackle with the same name) is also considering a bid for the seat. Quite a few congressional aides have succeeded their bosses in office (John Breaux, Paul Ryan, Kevin McCarthy) by using their contacts in the Beltway to fill their warchests.

That said, Louisiana voters have not elevated a Hill staffer directly to a congressional seat since Jim McCrery won a special election in 1988. Of Louisiana’s six congressmen, four were in the state legislature at the time of their election.

No White Flags?

The Democrats have publicly declared their intention to fight for the seat they won in 2002, when a Democratic state representative named Rodne…nevermind.

The good news for the Democrats is that they have no shortage of formidable candidates. Monroe State Representative Marcus Hunter has put out the word that he is running. Alexandria mayor Jacques Roy has been mentioned as a candidate (of note, was purchased on August 6th) as have State Representative Rick Gallot of Grambling and Monroe mayor Jamie Mayo.

The district ought to be favorable for a Democratic candidate, as it is one-third black, though the question is whether the state Democratic Party, whose influence in Louisiana state politics has been shrinking faster than Lily Tomlin in her 1981 movie, possesses the ability and/or money to fight in the state’s most gerrymandered district.

And a divided field would almost certainly doom the Democrats’ chances. When Alexander won the office in 2002, he was the only credible “D” in a crowded and practically evenly split Republican field.

Riser’s to Lose

If he can keep the GOP side clear and if the Democrats are split, then Riser’s chances of a landslide primary victory are as good as LSU’s chances when the Tigers play UAB on September 7th.

However if Holloway and Terry jump in (the former loaded with name recognition and a built-in constituency, the latter with access to DC campaign donors) and the Democrats sort things out before qualifying, the GOP heir apparent might find himself in the kind of dogfight Nick Saban’s team encountered in when they played UAB in Tiger Stadium on September 23, 2000.

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