“By the way things went down, it gives every appearance of not being a free and fair election.” Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe
WASHINGTON — Freshman state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, came out swinging Tuesday in announcing his plans to run for the 5th Congressional District seat against what he said was a seemingly coordinated behind-the-scenes coronation of state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia.
U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, last week announced that he would not run for re-election in 2014, then quickly accepted a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Cabinet overseeing veterans’ affairs. Riser almost immediately stated his plans to run in the Oct. 19 open primary special election to replace Alexander, and Riser then quickly unveiled a campaign website.
“I feel somebody needs to step up and run,” said Morris, a lawyer.
Morris called Riser a “friend” but he also argued that Riser is the “establishment candidate” the GOP is trying to unfairly push into Congress on short notice.
Riser already has endorsements from U.S. Reps. Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; and John Fleming, R-Minden.
“By the way things went down, it gives every appearance of not being a free and fair election,” Morris said.
He said it certainly seems like a planned effort to give Riser a head start for the congressional election that surprised nearly everyone and is just two months away.
“I’m having to do things in two days that might ordinarily take two months,” Morris said.
Alexander and Riser have denied any such coordinated efforts. Citing frustrations with partisan gridlock, Alexander said he was already planning not to run for re-election before he was approached by Jindal. Riser has said he was vocal about his intentions to run for the seat whenever Alexander decided to retire.
Alexander’s own chief of staff, Adam Terry, of Harrisonburg, was considering running to replace his boss for a 2014 election. But Terry said he found out that his boss was accepting the Jindal administration job at the same time the media learned about it.
“I was not privy to any of those conversations they did or did not have,” Terry said Tuesday.
Given the much shorter timeframe, Terry said he opted against running and that he will not join the field when qualifying begins Monday.
One other potential GOP candidate, Jeff Guerriero, said he is “definitely leaning” toward entering the race.
In a previous election in 2011, Guerriero narrowly lost to incumbent state Sen. Bob Kostelka, R-Monroe.
The Louisiana Democratic Party is attempting to line up its support behind just one candidate.
The top contenders include Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy; Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo; state Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston; and state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe. Monroe lawyer Charles Kincade also may run, but he is not expected to receive party support.
“I want to run,” Mayo said Tuesday, but he added that he will only do so with the party’s backing.
Gallot offered a similar explanation.
“I wasn’t in the room when a deal was made,” Gallot said, referencing the support behind Riser, “so I’m having to go through the due diligence process.”
Although he is an unlikely candidate to run, the Washington Examiner cited unnamed GOP sources in Washington saying that “Duck Dynasty” television star Willie Robertson, of West Monroe, is being courted to run. However, there is no evidence that Robertson is giving the race any strong consideration.
The 5th Congressional District — the largest geographically in the state — stretches from northeastern Louisiana to St. Landry Parish to parts of the Baton Rouge metro area and Washington Parish.