WASHINGTON — A member of the Landrieu family, a black Republican, a law student Libertarian and a mysterious man from Florida are challenging freshman U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, a Democrat from New Orleans.
Richmond’s opponents, none of whom have well-funded campaigns, all argue he is vulnerable because he is no longer the incumbent, as the district has changed. The redrawn 2nd Congressional District now runs from New Orleans to northern Baton Rouge and is considered by pundits to be the only Democratic stronghold in Louisiana.
Those challenging Richmond are Dwayne Bailey, a Republican from Donaldsonville; Gary Landrieu, a Democrat and cousin of New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu; Caleb Trotter, a Libertarian political newcomer; and Josue Larose, a Republican who lists a New Orleans address but mailed in his qualifying papers from Florida and has not responded to numerous phone messages.
Larose is presumably the same Larose who has run for governor in Florida and other offices without campaigning and has opened more “Super PAC” political action committees than anyone else in the nation.
As for the other three challengers, Bailey argues he is well positioned to get into a runoff with Richmond after the Nov. 6 open primary election. Bailey, who switched parties after a failed bid for the state Legislature as a Democrat last year, said he stands out as an African-American Republican and as the only candidate from the new portions of the district.
“He does not know the culture of the River Parishes voters at all,” Bailey said. “He’s very vulnerable and especially very vulnerable to an African-American Republican.”
The outcome will not be determined solely by which candidate has the most campaign money, Bailey said.
Gary Landrieu, a small businessman who ran unsuccessfully for the New Orleans City Council, said Richmond is vulnerable because he has only served one term in Congress and has not built much of a record.
“He made the news for playing baseball,” Landrieu said, referring to Richmond being named the most valuable player of the congressional baseball game for two years. “Other than that, what else?”
Landrieu said he believes he has as much name recognition as Richmond because of his last name.
Landrieu said politicians like Richmond — and sometimes his own cousins, though he also praised them — get too caught up in party politics and can lose sight of the people they serve.
“I’m going to stand up for the people first,” he said.
Although Mayor Landrieu is not expected to get involved, Gary Landrieu said he would welcome such backing.
“How do you not support your family?” he asked.
Sen. Landrieu said she is backing Richmond over her cousin.
Trotter is a 28-year-old native of Oklahoma who graduated from Tulane University and now studies law at Loyola University. Trotter, who runs the Nolatarian.com blog for Libertarians, said he initially got into the race to help ensure every congressional race had a Libertarian voice.
But Trotter said he is making headway and taking the race very seriously after quickly raising more than $5,000 in campaign funds. Trotter said Richmond backs too much federal spending and has failed to offer public support for Libertarian pillars like the legalization of marijuana and gay marriage equality — even after President Barack Obama came out in support of gay marriage.
“It’s a bit more exciting now,” Trotter said. “This is about getting the (Libertarian) message to the new District 2.”
Trotter said he can be the “option for greater leadership that this district deserves.”
Bailey, who became the first black member of the Ascension Republican Parish Executive Committee earlier this year, said he believes he will connect with the voters and thrive in the western half of the new district. Bailey said he switched parties because of his conservative views on Christian values, gun rights and support for school vouchers.
Bailey and Landrieu agreed they want the district to become a strong economic corridor along Interstate 10 with more petrochemical growth and oil refineries to spur the economy. They also argued that much more must be done to keep Louisiana from being 49th in education and other areas.
“It’s not cancer alley,” Bailey said. “I call it the industrial corridor.”
Landrieu said Louisiana has ample natural resources but is one of the nation’s poorest states.
“We’ve got all this unemployment and all this poverty,” Landrieu said. “We ought to be swimming in money down here … It’s pitiful. We’re not going to take it anymore.”
Landrieu, Bailey and Trotter all said Hurricane Isaac showed how much more the federal government has to do to protect the new district, especially in light of the heavy flooding in the River Parishes.
“Hurricane Isaac brought us a reality shot that we weren’t prepared for,” Bailey said. “We need to rework our flood plan.”
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