WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise might not have any well-financed opponents, but they are still ready to challenge him for being too conservative, too partisan or too out of touch with his 1st Congressional District.
Scalise, R-Jefferson, faces two people he has soundly beaten in the past: Democrat M.V. “Vinny” Mendoza and no party candidate Arden Wells, both of Ponchatoula. Also challenging Scalise are two political newcomers in Republican Gary King, of New Orleans, and Galliano resident David “Turk” Turknett, who is not affiliated with any political party.
Mendoza, a retired U.S. Air Force engineer, said he has sons who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. needs to stop fighting unnecessary wars. He said Scalise bows to defense contractors and lobbyists.
“We have an incumbent who does everything for special interests, and we can’t afford that,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza said he is the only candidate speaking out about the “awful consequences” if GOP nominee Mitt Romney wins the presidency and eyes going to war with Iran.
King is a radio host and guitar teacher who said he distrusts both political parties but mostly aligns as a Republican.
“I’m a liberty-minded person who believes in the Constitution,” he said.
King said Scalise does the same “song and dance” of ignoring the interests of people in the district while supporting bills that invade the privacy rights of Americans, such as the Patriot Act bills and measures that allow the government to detain Americans suspected of terrorism indefinitely.
“He is not responding to us anymore,” King said. “In the beginning, he did, but now he’s just another Washington insider.”
Wells, one of the no party candidates, said he is again challenging Scalise because the congressman is failing the district and because many more people consider themselves “independents” now. Wells said he aligned himself as a tea party candidate two years ago but now sees the tea party as a “Republican front party.”
“There’s nobody representing the American middle class anymore,” Wells said.
Congress needs to focus on domestic issues and empowering the middle class rather than constantly fighting wars in the Middle East and coming to the defense of Israel, Wells said.
“We have a rotten domestic policy and a rotten foreign policy, and the middle class is being decimated,” Wells said.
Turknett, who runs an electronics company, is a political newcomer and the only candidate from the coastal parishes that were added to the redrawn 1st District.
Turknett said he is running to give a voice to the coastal regions and because Scalise seems more concerned with his “party’s agenda than the district’s agenda.”
“If I can get my word out, I’m happy,” he said.
Turknett, who is active in coastal issues, said more campaign focus is needed on the coastal restoration and levee protection problems that were exacerbated by Hurricane Isaac. Levee construction is needed for the survival of the area, he said, and river dredging projects are needed for the survival of the economy.
“This generation is safe,” Turknett said. “The next generation — maybe not. The generation after that — it’ll all be gone. It’ll all be under water.”
He said he wants to generate more federal funds to better build up La. 1, which feeds into the ports in south Lafourche and Jefferson parishes. He also wants to end the toll system that he said forces port and offshore workers to unfairly pay to use the bridge.
“Offshore drilling begins and ends onshore,” he said.
Turknett also said he wants to expedite revenue sharing for Louisiana for offshore oil drilling and to lift the federal cap on funds the state can receive.
“We contribute to the U.S. We produce seafood and about one-third of the nation’s energy,” he said. “We deserve some proper respect.”
Mendoza said he wants to fight the growing crime problems in the district by adopting the Japanese model of “police boxes,” in which a few police officers are placed in numerous small stations throughout each area to deter crime and quickly respond to it.
King wants to continue to go after BP for the 2010 oil leak and to investigate the use of the dispersant Corexit. He said he fears the health and ecological effects of the oil-dispersing chemical are far worse than advertised.
“There’s oil and tar balls washing up all the time,” King said. “People have had it.”
Wells said he has a pet issue in that he wants the general citizenry, and not just lawyers, to be eligible to run for judicial positions. He said that would take much of the corruption and bias out of the judiciary.
Wells has his own legal issues, as he is disbarred for five years. He blames the disbarment on retaliation stemming from him suing the 21st Judicial District judges.
“I wear my disbarment like a crown,” he said. “It’s not what you do in Louisiana, it’s who you offend.”