WASHINGTON — Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway campaigned and volunteered this week at the Washington Parish Free Fair in Franklinton.
Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo spent a day doing radio and television interviews and visiting a school in Alexandria — the other sizeable city base in the mostly rural congressional 5th District — getting his name and platform out as much as possible.
Such is the final push for the 14 candidates in the truncated race for the vacated congressional seat leading up to Saturday’s open primary special election. The seat opened up when former Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, stepped down unexpectedly for a cabinet position in Gov. Bobby Jindal’s administration.
“I’m shaking a lot of hands,” said state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, as he drove into a campaign stop in Jena.
“We leave no stone unturned, and we work hard on election day until 8 p.m. when the polls close,” said state Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville.
The polls open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. Voters can access sample ballots by visiting www.sos.la.gov or by downloading the GeauxVote Mobile app for smartphones.
The congressional race features three Republicans elected officials in Morris, Holloway, a former congressman from Forest Hill; and the perceived frontrunner and fundraising leader, state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia.
Riser said he has a “well received” platform to voters that includes: “Get the government out of our lives and get our federal spending down.”
The Democratic elected officials include Mayo, Johnson and state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe.
Other candidates include Republican Monroe businessman Vance McAllister, who has the celebrity support of “Duck Dynasty” television star Phil Robertson, and former state Rep. Weldon Russell, D-Amite.
The rest of the field includes Henry Herford Jr., a Libertarian and “recovering Republican” from Delhi; Eliot Barron, Green Party candidate from New Orleans; Louisiana Black Farmers Association President Peter Williams, No Party-Lettsworth; oil-and-gas landman Tom Gibbs, No Party-Calhoun; engineer and farmer Phillip “Blake” Weatherly, R-Calhoun; and insurance underwriter S.B.A. Zaitoon, a Baton Rouge Libertarian.
The redrawn 5th District is the state’s poorest, mostly rural and by far the largest geographically, stretching into 24 parishes from Monroe down to Alexandria and into the Florida parishes, which include the north Baton Rouge suburban and bedroom communities in East Feliciana.
University of Louisiana at Monroe political scientist Joshua Stockley said he expects Riser to grab one runoff spot for the November general election with Holloway likely having the “edge” for the other.
Stockley said Riser has faced repeated criticism as the “establishment” candidate who was “hand picked by Jindal” and who has received fundraising support from House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va.
Holloway said he is confident he will make the runoff against “Bobby Jindal and his crew.”
Holloway, on the other hand, has received criticism for accepting campaign donations from energy corporations while sitting on the state’s utility regulatory commission.
Stockley said Morris has raised a lot of funds and invested a lot of his own funds, “but it remains to be seen if he’ll make a dent.”
Morris has staked a position as the independent conservative candidate as a member of the so-called “fiscal hawks” in the Legislature who have butted heads with Jindal at times over budgetary matters. “I’m the conservative in the race who will vote in the best interests of the people and not represent the establishment,” he said.
The Democrats though have struggled to raise campaign dollars and failed to make their presences known as well, Stockley said.
Mayo may have a solid grassroots effort, Stockley said, but his fundraising has proven surprisingly poor.
“I think all of the Democrats are in a weak position,” Stockley said. “They’re fighting for the same base” and there is no clear “frontrunner.”
Mayo though said he stands out as the only candidate with real experience leading a “successful city” for 12 years.
“It makes me uniquely qualified to be a congressman and work with the administration and both sides of the aisle and take the 5th District and move it off the bottom (of health and income level lists) and start moving it up to the top,” Mayo said.
Johnson, who leads in fundraising among the Democrats, said most of his opponents in the race support the politics that led to the recent 16-day, partial government shutdown.
He said he is the “common sense,” bipartisan choice.
“People want government that works, that’s not shut down,” Johnson said. “I want to represent the people … and be effective and get things done for them. This is not about (political) party.”
Secretary of State Tom Schedler said, based on low early voting and past special congressional elections, he expects anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent of the district’s 481,294 registered voters to cast ballots on Oct. 19.
Prior to early voting, Schedler had projected a maximum 25 percent turnout and has since tweaked that estimate.
With small turnouts expected, Stockley said, a key to getting into the runoff will depend on who can best get their core supporters out to the polls.
Editor’s note: This story was changed on Friday, Oct. 18, to correct the first reference to state Rep. Robert Johnson’s party affiliation.