WASHINGTON — Sixth U.S. congressional candidates Rufus Craig Jr. and Richard “RPT” Torregano are both hoping for happy birthdays in November in their admittedly long-shot bids against U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy, R-Baton Rouge.
Craig, the Libertarian candidate from Baton Rouge, and Torregano, the no party option who also lives in Baton Rouge, coincidentally share the same Nov. 6 birthday, which just so happens to be election day.
Both of Cassidy’s opponents have run for Congress before — but neither against Cassidy — and both are running because of their disgust with the Republican and Democratic parties. Both are former Democrats who switched parties many years ago.
“My beef is with the (political) process and the system,” Craig said. “It appeared the incumbent was going to be unopposed, and there’s just something fundamentally wrong with unopposed representation.”
Torregano said Republicans only care about the wealthy and Democrats are focused on the underprivileged.
“It should all go back to the middle class,” Torregano said. “I don’t believe the Democrats and Republicans have the middle class in mind. The only time they talk to us is during elections when they want our vote. The status quo must go.
“This has got to be the new political way. You can’t just vote. You’ve got to get out there and run (for office).”
Torregano is running under a platform that includes proposals ranging from creating a flat tax for most Americans to increasing taxes on gasoline manufacturers to fund coastal restoration and more energy infrastructure.
The problem for the two candidates though is that Cassidy has a campaign war chest of nearly $2 million and does not plan on spending much of it. Craig said he raised more than $4,000 initially and Torregano described his fundraising as nonexistent. Both said they are getting signs, working grass-roots campaigns and building their online presences.
Because of redistricting, the redrawn 6th congressional district loses some of the Baton Rouge region, such as northern Baton Rouge and chunks of West Baton Rouge, Ascension and St. James parishes. But the district moves farther south to include parts of Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes and then some. The district includes Thibodaux, for instance, but not nearby Houma.
Craig, who previously ran unsuccessfully against former U.S. Rep. Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, said he is upset that the redistricting was overtly political and tantamount to “gerrymandering.” The end results are one solid minority district that starts in New Orleans and snakes into parts of Baton Rouge. The other districts are more solidly Republican than ever, he said.
“It’s almost certain Congressman Cassidy would be re-elected even if I had millions of dollars only because he has an ‘R’ behind his name,” Craig said. “I suffer no illusions.”
Despite the major roadblocks, Craig said he is running under a platform to reduce the size of government, prevent future federal bailouts, end the war on drugs and end all U.S. involvement in foreign wars. Other key goals include eliminating the federal deficit, reforming the federal tax code and doing away with the two-party election system, he said.
Republicans and Democrats are all slaves to their special interests, Craig said. If a farmer wants something, he said, a Democrat will give him a grant or a subsidy while the Republican will give him a tax credit.
“It’s all the same in the end,” he said.
As for Torregano, he last ran for office in the 1980s in New Orleans against former U.S. Rep. Lindy Boggs, D-New Orleans.
“I’m a little bit older and a little bit wiser, and I think I have a better platform,” he said.
One such plan is to save Social Security and Medicare by having the federal government issue Treasury bonds loans to help people pay off their home mortgages. The interest earned on the bonds would be dedicated to social security and Medicare, he said.
Another proposal is to help eliminate the gridlock in Congress by doing away with the necessary 60 votes — out of 100 — in the Senate to move past filibusters, which are occurring much more frequently. Only simple majorities of 51 votes should be needed, Torregano said. That is why his website is http://rpt50-1.com/.
Some of Torregano’s other plans move deeper into the unusual, such as recruiting a lot more religious officials — from priests to rabbis — to run for Congress because he said it is one of the only ways to bring trust back into government.
“We cannot accomplish anything without help,” he said, arguing he will spend time recruiting others to run for Congress if he wins.