ALFORD’S OPINION COLUMN: Cracking The Congressional Code

Louisiana voters will send six representatives to Congress during the November general elections and, if needed, the December runoffs. Those contests, for two-year terms, are sort of a big deal.

Nonetheless, many voters are unplugged from the issues and personalities. They think there isn’t much going on with our upcoming congressional elections. Well, they’re wrong.

Those unplugged voters may not be aware that the aftereffects of an election are not confined to its district lines, and that the learning lessons gleaned can be applied to everything from policy forecasts to political tea leaves.

Moreover, this is a fascinating time in the history of Louisiana’s U.S. House delegation. Congressman Steve Scalise of Jefferson Parish, for example, is the majority whip, which is the third highest rank in the nation’s lower chamber. Congressman Cedric Richmond of Orleans Parish is also the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, which brings with it considerable clout.

Then there’s our other four delegation members. All of them are either in their first or second terms, including:

— A YouTube superstar with a John Wayne media persona (Congressman Clay Higgins of St. Landry Parish)

— A constitutional law expert who made a splash on the Hill by calling for political civility (Congressman Mike Johnson of Caddo Parish)

— A work-around-the-clock policy wonk who guides nighttime tours of the Capitol (Congressman Garret Graves of East Baton Rouge Parish)

— A plane-flying country physician who may or may not run for governor (Congressman Ralph Abraham of Richland Parish)

Scalise, with national name recognition and a place at the White House dinner table, resides at the top of this Beltway pecking order. He was viewed as a likely successor to Speaker Paul Ryan, who announced last week he would step down at the end of the year. But that speculation was muted when Scalise, like Ryan, endorsed House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

That doesn’t mean Scalise is out of the running for a leadership win. He could still move from the House’s number three job to number two, which McCarthy occupies now. Or he could still end up making a run for speaker, should McCarthy have trouble gathering the 218 votes needed.

Either way, Scalise still has to first get re-elected back home this fall. To that end, his campaign team recently announced it had raised $3 million during the past three months — reportedly the largest such haul on record by a sitting whip. (If you don’t have a frame of reference, that’s a rather large number.)

At the same time, Scalise is carefully watching all of the congressional races being waged in other states. Republicans are cautiously optimistic about this cycle, but many admit there’s a possibility that Democrats seize control of the House. That would in turn downgrade Scalise’s role to the minority leadership team, which means it represents a more serious threat than the whip’s re-election, which will probably be a snooze-fest.

As for the congressional district soaking up the most re-election attention from Louisiana politicos, it belongs to Higgins, with his unorthodox style and attention-grabbing headlines. Higgins already has two challengers ready to go: Republican Joshua Guillory, a constitutional and family law attorney, and Democrat Mimi Methvin, a former judge.

Guillory and Methvin were likely inspired to join the fray — in some small part — by Higgins’ perceived lack of fundraising prowess. But Higgins has turned up the heat over the past few months. His campaign now has more than $211,000 in the bank after 2018’s first quarter, during which $217,000 in donations were collected, said general consultant Chris Comeaux.

Not only are his opponents nowhere close to that threshold, but the cash provides Higgins with more of a traditional incumbent’s advantage. The congressman, with fundraising consultant Sally Nungesser, put the dough together by creating something called “Higgins’ Posse” — known in other campaigns as a finance committee. The group includes a few folks who weren’t solidly in Higgins’ corner two years ago, and many others who were. (Riding in the 63-member posse are names like Boysie Bollinger, Bill Fenstermaker, Shane Guidry and Richard Zuschlag.)

Abraham, a veterinarian turned physician, so far doesn’t have any serious opposition. But his handlers probably don’t like the sound of that. A race, even against a paper tiger, would allow Abraham to run for re-election in earnest while also blanketing the state with his branding (commercials, radio spots, direct mail and more) ahead of being a candidate for governor, should he pursue the grand prize in 2019.

There have been rumblings about minor opposition for Graves, Johnson and Richmond, but the qualifying period will reveal who’s really serious. The most interesting news from this trio comes from Richmond’s race. Roger Villere, who recently stepped down as state GOP chair and opened a consulting shop called CRV, said a black Republican has been gearing up to run against Richmond. Villere, however, was mum on further details.

Yes, our November-December congressional elections might seem quiet right now. And, yes, the actual races might come and go later this year with barely a whimper. But that doesn’t mean those electoral showings can’t crown eventual kings, elevate regional candidates to statewide recognition and shake up the fall game plans of D.C. bigwigs.

The drama and the intrigue are there — enough to capture and hold your attention. Sometimes you just need to know where to look to crack the same congressional code way too many voters otherwise ignore.

SPONSORED: LPCA Hold 35th Annual Conference

TPG’s client Louisiana Primary Care Association (LPCA) held their 35th Annual Conference last week at the Shreveport Convention Center. LPCA

The Tuesday Tracker Sponsored By Harris, DeVille & Associates

October 16, 2018 — Issue No. 161 By Jeremy Alford ( & Mitch Rabalais ( (Printable

CORRECTION (LaPolitics Weekly 10.12.18)

In a “Field Notes” brief from yesterday’s LaPolitics Weekly, we erroneously reported that the Plaquemines Parish Council voted 4-3 to remove

The WEDNESDAY Tracker, Sponsored By Harris DeVille & Associates

October 10, 2018 — Issue No. 160 By Jeremy Alford ( & Mitch Rabalais ( RISPONE IS IN Fast

SPONSORED: Bike MS + Team Blu Collar = Success

It’s amazing what you can accomplish when you work as a team, focused on one goal and motivating each other to succeed. On October 6 and

SPONSORED: The Picard Group


October 2, 2018 — Issue No. 159 By Jeremy Alford ( & Mitch Rabalais (  IT AIN’T

SPONSORED: Honoring Former Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco

The Picard Group was honored to attend the Kathleen Babineaux Blanco Public Policy Center gala on Friday, September 21, supporting UL

SPONSORED: Franco-Fête 2018 Fundraising Luncheon For Scholarship Program Of CODOFIL

Each year, Franco-Fête raises funds to support French education in Louisiana, especially through La Fondation Louisiane’s “Escadrille

The Tuesday Tracker (Sponsored By Harris DeVille & Associates)

September 18, 2018 — Issue No. 158 By Jeremy Alford ( & Mitch Rabalais

CAPITOL GAINS: Does Louisiana need a lieutenant governor?

You’ve really need to watch this interview. From being mistaken for Coach O and fielding attacks from fellow Republicans, to why John

SPONSORED: The Picard Group

A Rare WEDNESDAY Tracker!

Five questions for JBJ at 86, a giveaway contest, forgotten history, AG versus JBE, more "Chatter" and some rather important birthdays (no

SPONSORED: Successful LegisGator Event Honors Lawmakers

On August 24, more than 800 legislators, business leaders, supporters, lobbyists, and others involved in the political realm gathered at

SWAMPERS & SWORDS: Alford’s late summer’s ode to Louisiana’s cities, towns, & villages

SWAMPERS & SWORDS Alford’s late summer’s ode to Louisiana's cities, towns, & villages IF YOU’RE GOING TO DIVE into a review

Rabalais’ Political History: Wade O. Martin & the creation of the modern SOS office

In 1956, an epic power struggle between two political giants forever changed the scope of statewide elected offices in Louisiana. The

ALFORD: You Want Mayors? We’ve Got Mayors!

ALFORD’S SYNDICATED OPINION COLUMN You Want Mayors? We've Got Mayors! Fake mayors, real mayors, convicted mayors, interim mayors,


The Louisiana Lottery is about to have some competition. The Mississippi Legislature voted this afternoon to create a lottery there. Gov.


Today: Cary Koch, Craig McCulloch and Tammi Arender Wednesday 08/29: Quay McKnight, Kevin Blanchard and Paul Coussan Thursday

Gamard: PAC Shoots With “Shooter”

Rep. Blake Miguez — if you’re unfamiliar with his gun-fueled background, hit up Google now — is the featured political player in a new

WEEKLY: Players Who Could Be Mayors

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on August 16, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite

WATCH THE WHIP: Is Scalise the preferred speaker candidate?

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on August 16, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite

YOU’VE BEEN GRADED: LABI Releases 20th Scorecard

YOU’VE BEEN GRADED LABI releases 20th scorecard Much more than fiscal cliff was reviewed Marketing campaign linked to con-con

ALFORD’S OPINION COLUMN: Dismissing Congressional Clout Concerns

Not too long ago, at least in reporter years, I was utilizing the space in this weekly column with some regularity to write about the loss


RABALAIS’ POLITICAL HISTORY When Time Is On Your Side Uncle Harry’s 32-year streak & the longevity of statewide elected