Fourteen sign up for 5th Congressional District run

Advocate staff photo by Michelle Millhollon -- Clyde Holloway, R-Forest Hills, with Royal Alexander, a lawyer, in the background
Advocate staff photo by Michelle Millhollon -- Clyde Holloway, R-Forest Hills, with Royal Alexander, a lawyer, in the background

Saying something stinks about the way a special election for the 5th Congressional District seat developed, Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway joined the crowded race Wednesday.

Fourteen people including four legislators, a mayor, a former legislator and political newcomers now are on the ballot for the Oct. 19 open primary special election to replace U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander.

The 5th District is one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation. It covers all or part of 24 parishes across northeastern Louisiana, through much of central Louisiana, across the northern Baton Rouge metro area — though not East Baton Rouge Parish itself — along the state line with Mississippi through the Florida Parishes to Washington Parish.

Holloway, a Republican from Forest Hill, said his decision to run stems from suspicions that Gov. Bobby Jindal and Alexander, R-Quitman, orchestrated a plan to slide state Sen. Neil Riser into the seat.

“I feel like we tried to have an appointed congressman,” Holloway said after paying $900 to get into the race.

His entry sparked a marital disagreement with his wife of more than 40 years. Holloway said his wife is not a fan of him running for office. “We live through it and stay married,” Holloway said.

The final day of qualifying was busy with candidates driving from Amite, New Orleans, Delhi and Monroe to swing through Secretary of State Tom Schedler’s office off Essen Lane in Baton Rouge.

Alexander already planned to leave Congress when his term expired. His departure accelerated when he accepted a job with the Jindal administration earlier this month.

Riser, R-Columbia, quickly launched a congressional campaign and signed up when the doors opened on the first day of qualifying.

The speed of his actions drew criticism from state Rep. Jay Morris, who suggested the GOP conspired to make Riser the establishment candidate.

Morris, R-Monroe, arrived midafternoon Wednesday with his wife and navigated the maze of offices to qualify.

Afterward, Morris softened his criticism of the timing associated with Alexander’s resignation and Riser’s campaign.

Morris said he has shown a willingness to agree with Jindal at times but also has disagreed with the governor at other times.

“I believe my record as an independent voice in the Legislature can be carried to Washington,” Morris said.

The governor’s spokesman, Sean Lansing, said Jindal has not chosen a candidate to support in the race.

High-profile candidates include state Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, who is a Democrat.

Also on the ballot: Fairbanks oil and gas landman Tom Gibbs; Lettsworth resident Peter Williams; Baton Rouge underwriter Samear Badih Anis Zaitoon; Delhi resident Henry Herford Jr.; Calhoun resident Phillip “Blake” Weatherly; New Orleans real estate agent Eliot Barron; Monroe businessman Vance McAllister; and former state Rep. R. Weldon Russell III, of Amite.

Barron is with the Green Party. Herford and Zaitoon are Libertarians. McAllister and Weatherly are Republicans. Russell is a Democrat. Gibbs and Williams have no party affiliation.

Gibbs ran against Alexander, R-Quitman, three years ago. Gibbs drew 33,279 votes to Alexander’s 122,030 votes.

“I was going to do it again anyway. I wasn’t expecting Rodney Alexander to drop out in the middle of the term like that,” Gibbs said Wednesday of running.

Gibbs said the Republican and Democratic parties have failed Americans in Congress. He said he wants to add balance so the body is not as polarized.

For Russell, running for Congress is a childhood dream, and he wanted to take a crack at it. His platform is a mix of what he calls pegs.

He said the Florida Parishes need representation for better roadways and agricultural grants.