Central legislator to resign; Election to be held in March

Advocate file photo -- State Rep. Clif Richardson, R-Central, speaks during an April 2008 debate on the Louisiana House Floor. Show caption
Advocate file photo -- State Rep. Clif Richardson, R-Central, speaks during an April 2008 debate on the Louisiana House Floor.

Citing health problems, state Rep. Clif Richardson announced Friday that he will resign from the Louisiana Legislature in January.

Richardson, R-Central, is undergoing treatment for blood cancer. He said the chemotherapy makes him very sick.

“I’ve got the heart to serve. I just don’t have the physical ability,” Richardson said from Houston, where he is waiting to receive a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson Cancer Center.

House Speaker Chuck Kleckley, R-Lake Charles, called an election for March 2 to fill Richardson’s District 65 seat. A runoff, if necessary, will be held April 6.

Term-limited Metro Councilman Mike Walker, who unsuccessfully ran against Mayor-President Kip Holden on Nov. 6, said he will pass on seeking the seat.

Walker said he will back Metro Councilman Scott Wilson, who said he plans to run.

“I’m going to be 100 percent in support of Scott,” Walker said.

Wilson said he told Richardson he plans to run for the vacated seat.

“I think I can bring some good things,” Wilson said.

Earlier this year, Wilson won re-election to the Metro Council when no one signed up to run against him.

Richardson received the cancer diagnosis in February after bloodwork during a physical examination revealed problems. He started chemotherapy shortly afterward. A bout with pneumonia caused him to miss the last weeks of this year’s legislative session.

He has myeloma, which attacks plasma cells and cripples the immune system. A stem cell transplant injects healthy cells to replace the cancerous cells eradicated through chemotherapy or radiation. A rigorous treatment course precedes the transplant.

Richardson said he hoped a stem cell transplant would improve his health and allow him to continue serving as a legislator. He said delays in receiving the transplant convinced him to resign.

“I kept hoping this would happen quicker,” he said, adding that he might be in Houston through January.

State Rep. J. Rogers Pope, R-Denham Springs, said he watched his friend struggle with medical problems over the last year. In the end, he said, Richardson wanted his constituents to have a viable representative.

“This was a difficult decision for him,” Pope said. “He enjoyed what he was doing, and quite frankly, he was doing an excellent job.”

Richardson, 68, is in his second term as a legislator. He is a retired electrical contractor who owned Rebel Electric Co. He previously served as a justice of the peace.

In the House, Richardson served on the education and civil law committees. He gave up his committee seats earlier this year.

State Sen. Bodi White, R-Central, said he has known Richardson at least 30 years.

White credited Richardson with working for the incorporation of Central and the carving out of a separate school district for the city. “He’s always been a community leader for years and years. He’s a very good friend of mine,” White said.

In conversations, White said Richardson expressed a concern that his constituents no longer had a full-time legislator.

Resigning will give Richardson more time to focus on his treatment and recovery, White said.

“He’s having a hard time,” he said.