Louisiana Congressmen Draw Opponents As Sign-Up Period Opens

AP Photo/Melinda Deslatte
Former state Sen. A.G. Crowe, R-Pearl River, talks to elections officials as he registers to run for secretary of state on the Nov. 6 ballot, on Wednesday, July 18, 2018, in Baton Rouge, La. The election qualifying period opened Wednesday and runs through Friday.


BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Candidates seeking to oust three of Louisiana's Republican incumbent U.S. House members, including one contender who says he's the state's first openly gay congressional candidate, registered Wednesday for the fall election.

On the first day of the sign-up period, challengers filed paperwork to run against Steve Scalise, the third-ranking GOP House member, in the 1st District; Clay Higgins in the 3rd District; and Garret Graves in the 6th District, on the Nov. 6 ballot. Most of the Democratic candidates, all of whom are making their first bids for elective office, said they won't accept PAC or corporate donations for their campaigns. They also criticized the Republican incumbents as beholden to special interest groups and hefty campaign donors.

Scalise faces three opponents so far for the southeast Louisiana-based seat, including Democrats Jim Francis of Covington, who works on computer security systems, and Tammy Savoie of New Orleans, a retired Air Force psychologist. Both slammed Scalise as prioritizing the Republican Party over his district's residents.

Savoie singled out Scalise's votes to scale back the federal health overhaul championed by former President Barack Obama and to oppose an increase in the minimum wage.

"He has abdicated his responsibility to the people of Louisiana," Savoie said.

Also in the 1st District race is Libertarian Howard Kearney of Mandeville.

Scalise and Graves have significantly more money on hand than those seeking to replace them, a point their opponents attempted to downplay.

Graves drew opposition for the Baton Rouge-based seat from Justin DeWitt, who works for a land surveying company and described himself as the first openly gay candidate to run for a congressional seat in Louisiana. DeWitt called Graves a "corporate sellout" and criticized Graves' support of the federal tax rewrite, saying it too heavily benefited the nation's wealthiest taxpayers.

Meanwhile, several challengers are running against Higgins to represent southwest and south central Louisiana. Higgins lags many of his fellow incumbents in fundraising, raising questions about his vulnerability.

His Democratic opponents include Rob Anderson, a freelance author from DeQuincy, and Mimi Methvin, a lawyer and former federal magistrate judge from Lafayette. Anderson called Higgins a "placeholder for the Republican Party," while Methvin said Higgins didn't follow his pledge to be independent voice.

"He has been like Barney Fife in Washington, D.C., just doing the bidding of the GOP hierarchy," she said.

Higgins also has an intra-party fight from Republican Josh Guillory, an attorney and Iraq war veteran from Lafayette.

Asked to distinguish himself from the congressman, Guillory said: "First and foremost, I live in the district." Higgins lives in Port Barre, which is not in the 3rd District.

Though all six of Louisiana's incumbent congressmen are running for re-election, only two have officially signed up for the ballot so far: Democrat Cedric Richmond of New Orleans and Republican Ralph Abraham of Alto. Neither showed up in person amid ongoing congressional debates in Washington, instead sending representatives to qualify for them.

Abraham and Republican U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson of Benton didn't draw opposition on the first day of qualifying. Three candidates without party affiliation signed up for the New Orleans-based 2nd District seat held by Richmond.

The election sign-up period continues through Friday.

Top of the ballot also is a special election for secretary of state, to fill the position vacated by Republican Tom Schedler after he was accused of sexual harassment by an employee. Signing up Wednesday were Republican former Sen. A.G. Crowe of Pearl River and Democrat Renee Fontenot Free of Baton Rouge, who worked as top assistant to two prior secretaries of state.

– by Melinda Deslatte, AP reporter

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