WASHINGTON – U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, may be running for reelection this fall against a self-purported “billionaire” who has created more Super PAC fundraising entities than anyone else in the country.
Republican Josue Larose filed to challenge Richmond by mailing in his qualifying papers through a southern Florida notary public, according to his qualifying form. He registered to vote in Orleans Parish last week on Aug. 8, according to the Louisiana Secretary of State.
The unusual name, Josue Larose, matches the name of a southern Florida man who is infamous and mysterious for qualifying, but not campaigning, for numerous public offices, including for governor of Florida two years ago and even president. He also has reportedly sought to qualify for offices in Mississippi as recently as early this year.
Larose did not return five phone messages Wednesday and Thursday left on the 504 New Orleans area code phone number he used to qualify. The voice mail is an automated response that does not give his name. He also lists an address at the Crescent Club apartments in New Orleans, but employees refused to comment on the residency status of anyone living there.
Both the Larose running against Richmond and the Florida man are black men born in 1981, according to the secretary of state. The office has not independently confirmed if they are one and the same person.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler said late Thursday that the qualifying papers may stand out “on the surface” but that Larose is registered to vote – no matter how recently – and his documents are certified, even of it was done in Florida.
He said his office is only administrative in this regard and that the Legislature would have to change the law to give his office more investigative or enforcement authority.
“We take documents on face value if certified,” Schedler said.
Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Doré and GOP Chairman Roger Villere both said Thursday they were not familiar with the Larose who is challenging Richmond, although Villere said Republican candidates will sometimes qualify and then reach out to the state party afterwards.
Richmond also said he did not know anything about his challenger, although he said he had heard a little about the Florida Larose.
“I wonder if he’s even in the state,” Richmond said Thursday. “Wow. I have no idea. I guess we’ll find out in the days to come.”
Because of remapping to match population shifts, the 2nd U.S. Congressional District now includes more than 100,000 East Baton Rouge Parish residents, mostly in neighborhoods north of Government Street. The district also includes more than 50,000 residents in Baton Rouge suburbs of Ascension, Iberville and West Baton Rouge parishes.
With one day of qualifying to go, Larose was Richmond’s only challenger at the end of Thursday. It is up to Richmond to decide whether to challenge Larose’s residency status.
Last year, the non-profit, journalism group, ProPublica, investigated the Florida Larose after he formed more than 60 “super” political action committees and hundreds of smaller PACs, such as the Billionaire Josue Larose’s Dating Women Committee.
The group failed to track him down on the phone or in person, but noted many of the Super PAC names, such as the Bloomingdale’s Department Store Customers Super PAC, the NFL Sport Players Super PAC, the United Nations Diplomats Super PAC, the Yale University Graduates Super PAC, the IRS Employees Super PAC and the Costco Store Customers Super PAC.
In May, the Comedy Central Show, “The Colbert Report” starring Stephen Colbert, even parodied Larose in an unsuccessful effort to track him down. Colbert brought in the cast of the television show “Finding Bigfoot” on the Animal Planet channel in the futile effort to find Larose.
Colbert previously formed his own Super PAC, “Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tommorrow, Inc.” as a way to mock the whole concept of Super PACs that have rapidly spread since the 2010 Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court decision. The ruling allows for unlimited corporate spending on political campaigns as a form of free speech.
The Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-area Larose has two publicly listed phone numbers with southern Florida 954 area codes. But one number is disconnected and messages left to the other phone number also were not returned.
The New Orleans Larose challenging Richmond processed his filing papers for the Louisiana congressional seat through the Miami-based Aaron Notary Appointment Services. But the documents were originally notarized by Pompano Beach, Fla.-based notary Marco Aurelio Reis.
Reis is a licensed notary in Florida, but he did not return a phone message left Thursday at his “USA Tax” office.
A Facebook page for the Florida-area Larose claims he has degrees from Yale University and Harvard University and that he is the chief executive officer of American Nationwide Financial Company.