5th congressional race taking shape

The Democratic field for the congressional 5th District race began to take shape Thursday with state Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, announcing his candidacy and state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, reaffirming he is “110 percent in” the race.

State Sen. Rick Gallot, D-Ruston, though, opted out of the race, citing the short election time frame and the large size of the district geographically in which he would need to campaign.

The race is developing quickly with candidate sign-up starting next week and an Oct. 19 open primary special election after U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-Quitman, resigned last week.

Alexander surprised many by acceping a cabinet job in the Jindal administration overseeing veterans’ affairs.

The other Democrats still weighing their options include Alexandria Mayor Jacques Roy and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.

Roy did not respond to multiple messages Thursday. Mayo said he would decide Friday.

Monroe lawyer Charles Kincade is leaning toward running and said he plans to make an official announcement Friday.

On the Republican side, state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia, has a head start in fundraising, a campaign website and endorsements from three of Louisiana’s congressmen.

Riser said late Wednesday that Eric Mahaffey, of Quest Communication Consultants, of Monroe, would serve as his campaign manager.

State Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, has indicated he plans to run. Morris and others have criticized the appearance of coordinated efforts from Alexander and Jindal to help crown Riser, although those involved have denied any such backdoor dealings.

Lawyer Ed Tarpley, of Alexandria, said he is considering a run and intends to decide over the weekend.

Monroe lawyer Jeff Guerriero also may run, and The News-Star in Monroe has reported longtime Ouachita Parish School Superintendent Bob Webber also is considering entering the fray as a GOP contender. Webber did not respond to messages Thursday.

The 5th 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.

Johnson, a lawyer, announced his plans to run Thursday at Marksville High School after previously saying Wednesday he would run.

“Today we live in an America where traditional family values are being replaced by Washington values,” Johnson said.

“Well I’m here to tell you that this race is not about bringing Washington values to Louisiana. I’m standing with you and fighting to bring our Louisiana values to Washington.”

Although the Louisiana Democratic Party is hoping to coalesce behind one candidate, Hunter, a 34-year-old lawyer, said he is not backing down.

“We tried to sit down at a table as a collective and come up behind one candidate, but that’s hard when you have different ideas,” Hunter said.

“My goal is to give the people of Louisiana the option to elect a young candidate who really has his heart out for them,” Hunter said.

Gallot previously had said the party should unite behind one candidate, but he said he credits all Democrats who think they can win in the difficult and short turnaround time.

“It’s still America,” he said.