Johnson to run for 5th congressional seat

WASHINGTON State Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, said Wednesday that he will run for the 5th Congressional District seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman.

Johnson, who will discuss his plans Thursday at Marksville High School, becomes the first announced Democrat in the race who could receive support from the Louisiana Democratic Party as the party seeks to claim another seat in Congress.

Alexander last week announced he would not run for re-election in 2014 and then quickly accepted a job in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s Cabinet in charge of veterans’ affairs.

State Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, almost immediately stated his plans to run in the Oct. 19 open primary special election to replace Alexander and then quickly unveiled a campaign website.

State Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, also is planning to run and has criticized the appearance of coordination by Alexander and Jindal to give Riser a head start, although all involved have denied any such efforts.

Johnson, who is a Loyola University-educated lawyer, said in an interview Tuesday that he decided to run after receiving an outpouring of encouragement and phone calls.

“This is something I’ve always wanted … and now it’s before us,” said Johnson, who was first elected to the Louisiana House in 2007.

In discussing his competition, Johnson noted that Riser “came out extremely early.”

“I know there are suspicions,” Johnson said. “The people of the 5th Congressional District are very smart and they see what’s going on.”

Other potential Democratic candidates 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 Kincaid also may run as the “unabashed, unapologetic liberal” candidate.

Mayo and Gallot have both said they want to run, but that they would only do so with the blessing of the Democratic Party so Democrats could unite behind one candidate.

Johnson said he has “no idea” if the party will back him, but he downplayed party affiliation. He said the race will be about the person who can best serve the constituents.

“Louisiana has never been about labels, in my opinion,” he said.

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.