WEEKLY: Know Your Congressional Districts

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on June 21, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

   The races are getting closer and the list of hopefuls is getting longer (for some districts, at least). If you haven't caught up in awhile, don't worry. We took a look at each candidate for Louisiana's six U.S. House district seats, each incumbent's political artillery and each campaign finance report. We also made a few phone calls, read a few stats and ranked each seat by how easily it can be flipped.

   The verdict: Our congressmen are locked and loaded for next election, but that hasn't stopped the outpouring of colorful challengers looking to take their place. These will be fun to watch, so make sure you know your characters before the opening act.

— Congressional District 1: Steve Scalise: Incredibly Safe Republican

   Congressman Steve Scalise, the House Majority Whip, has drawn at least four challengers so far: Democrats Tammy Savoie, Jim Francis and Lee Ann Dugas; and Libertarian Howard Kearney. Because the incumbent is part of Capitol Hill's Republican leadership team, all four candidates are itching to unseat him. However, the whip’s heroic recovery from an assassination attempt, on top of a very visible, close relationship with the Trump White House, are huge pluses in a district that has not elected a Democrat since 1976.

   According to FEC reports, Kearney is the only candidate to have raised any money. His $2,250 pales in comparison to Scalise’s war chest of $1.5 million. According to Jason Hebert of The Political Firm, the whip will be undertaking a traditional media buy later this year as well as direct mail, digital outreach, print advertising and more. “He never takes anything for granted,” Hebert said of Scalise.

   The district, centered around the New Orleans suburbs, is expected to stay firmly within the grasp of the House majority whip. Since initially winning the seat in 2008, Scalise has drawn only minor opposition, winning reelection five times with an average of 73 percent of the vote.

— Congressional District 2: Cedric Richmond: Incredibly Safe Democratic

   Congressman Cedric Richmond, the chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus, has no announced challengers thus far. Despite being the only Democrat in Louisiana’s delegation, he is expected to stay secure in his seat, which has only been held by a Republican once since Reconstruction.

   Richmond, however, is not ruling out the possibility of a challenge. According to FEC reports, he has nearly $600,000 in the bank. As chairman of the CBC, he could count on a heavy bench of donors and surrogates to call-in if needed. “Cedric has certainly prepared,” said Sen. Troy Carter. Earlier this year, LaPolitics reported that former state GOP Chairman Roger Villere was working with a black Republican to oppose Richmond. But that potential candidate has since dropped out.

   The district, which includes New Orleans, the River Parishes and parts of Baton Rouge, is the state’s only seat drawn to be majority minority. Since initially winning in 2010, Richmond has won re-election four times with an average of 65 percent of the vote.

— Congressional District 3: Clay Higgins: Leans Republican

   Congressman Clay Higgins, who made his name with tough-talking videos for the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, will be fighting off multiple challengers in the state’s most crowded congressional race. Another Republican, Josh Guillory, has already entered the fray and is enjoying the support of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who serves as an attorney and advisor to President Donald Trump. Higgins, meanwhile, was has been endorsed by the president himself.

   Democratic challengers include former U.S. Magistrate Judge Mimi Methvin, Dr. Phillip Conner, Verone Thomas and Larry Rader. The latter is a New Iberia businessman who ran against Higgins in 2016. Two independents, Robert Anderson, and Dave Langlinais, have also declared their candidacies.

   The incumbent has been hitting the pavement back home, making sure that he is as visible as possible. "Higgins has made himself accessible to rural Acadiana in ways that former representatives and senators have not,” wrote The Daily Iberian staff writer Corey Vaughn. “Higgins has shown up to Fourth of July events, symposiums on inmate rehabilitation and just plain old town halls.”

   According to FEC reports, Higgins is sitting on a war chest of nearly $210,000 while most other candidates each have under $15,000. According to his staff, he raised about $15,000 at a recent D.C. fundraiser and is planning more events in the state. Guillory has nearly $90,000 in the bank and Giuliani will be headlining a fundraiser for him later this month.

   The district, which is centered in Acadiana, went overwhelmingly for Donald Trump in 2016. While nothing is certain quite yet, Higgins appears to be the early favorite in what is shaping up to be Louisiana’s most interesting race.

— Congressional District 4: Mike Johnson: Safe Republican

   Congressman Mike Johnson, the constitutional scholar who got his political start in legislature, will be facing a single challenger in his first bid for re-election. The only announced candidate is Ryan Trundle, a Democrat who supports Obamacare and legalizing marijuana. Johnson* is expected to cruise to re-election in a district that was carried handily by President Trump in 2016.

   According to the FEC, Trundle hasn’t conducted any fundraising. Johnson sits on a war chest of nearly $500,000. The congressman has been traveling the district, holding town halls during recesses and focusing his time on Capitol Hill fighting for social issues such as school prayer. He even got some national press early in the term with his “civility pledge” for fellow members of Congress.

   The district is based in the state’s northwestern corridor and hasn’t sent a Democrat to Congress since 1986.

*An original version of this story said Johnson is a member of the House Freedom Caucus. He is not. We apologize for the error.

— Congressional District 5: Ralph Abraham: Safe Republican

   Congressman Ralph Abraham, the veterinarian with his eye on the Governor’s Mansion, remains unopposed as he stands for re-election. While no candidates have officially emerged to challenge him, Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk said that the party is “in talks with several candidates” and “absolutely” plans on having a contender by the fall.

   According to the FEC, Abraham is sitting on a nearly $350,000 war chest. A contested race would allow the congressman, who has all but formally announced his candidacy for governor in 2019, run a traditional media campaign in five of the state’s seven media markets. The exposure would give incumbent Abraham more name recognition outside of North Louisiana, which would be vital to a statewide campaign. Even though he faced minor opposition in 2015, then-Treasurer John Kennedy employed a similar strategy, launching a media campaign with an eye on what’s now his U.S. Senate seat.

   The fifth district, centered around the state’s northeastern corridor and the Florida Parishes, is expected to safely stay in the hands of the incumbent. Since initially winning the seat in 2014, Abraham has only faced minor opposition, winning a second term in 2016 with 82 percent of the vote.

— Congressional District 6: Garret Graves: Safe Republican

   Congressman Garret Graves, the former aide to Bobby Jindal, Billy Tauzin and John Breaux, has drawn multiple challengers in his bid for a third term. Another Republican, Former Navy Association National President Bob Bell, has announced his candidacy. However, this will be Bell’s third try for the seat, having garnered only a small percentage of the vote in 2014 and 2016. Two Democrats, Justin DeWitt and Andie Saizan, have formally entered the race, and several others are said to be looking at the contest. Devin Lance Graham, an Independent, has also waded into the fray.

   According to the FEC, Graves has nearly $1.6 million in the bank. DeWitt, the only other candidate to conduct any fundraising has spent the majority of his money already, only having $20.14 on hand.

   The district, which is centered around Baton Rouge and touches the coastal parishes, has been solidly Republican for a decade. Graves, who won re-election in 2016 with 63 percent of the vote, is expected to cruise to victory.

This story was originally published for Weekly subscribers on June 21, 2018. Wish you had read it then? Become a part of our elite community by subscribing today!

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