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Ready to Run

Incumbents send proxies to qualify, while challengers have their say about the incumbents.

As a part of our ongoing coverage of the 2018 midterm elections, The Bayou Brief‘s Sue Lincoln and Halen Doughty are camping out at the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office during the qualifying period. This is their dispatch from Day One:

As is usual, candidates were lined up waiting for the qualifying doors to open at the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office Wednesday morning – including candidates for Secretary of State (to fill the remainder of Tom Schedler’s unexpired term.)

Former state Sen. A.G. Crowe, a Republican from Pearl River, said he’s running on “Biblical principles,” saying he intends to pray for his opponents each and every day of the campaign. Crowe, accompanied by his campaign consultant Scott Wilfong, touted his previous receipt of the Louisiana Family Forum’s “Gladiator Award” as one of his qualifications for the office, along with his years serving in the state legislature.

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Scott Wilfong and former state Sen. A.G. Crowe.

The Bayou Brief

“After 16 years in the Legislature, I have a good idea of how the office works,” Crowe stated. Asked about funding for his run, Crowe said, “We are well funded, and after doing two tours all over the state in the past few weeks, it’s impressive to me that we were so well known.”

Crowe says he’s opposed to same day voter registration.

Renee Fontenot Free, a Democrat from Baton Rouge, says she’s willing to explore the idea of same-day registration – as long as it can be done securely.

Free, who is currently on leave from the Attorney General’s office, says she’s different from all the other announced candidates for the office in that she has experience doing the job.

“I served as first assistant Secretary of State from 2004-2008, when we were rebuilding the entire system in the aftermath of Katrina. Now we’re facing a civil disaster – the erosion of public trust in the office. It’s time to remove all politics from the Secretary of State’s job.”

As for the greatest need for the Department of State? Free says it’s “voter participation.”

By 10:30 a.m., two candidates have qualified for congressional seats: Justin DeWitt in the 6th, and Howard Kearney in the 1st.

DeWitt, a 30-year-old land surveyor from Baton Rouge, calls incumbent Republican Garret Graves “a corporate sell-out.”

DeWitt, who is openly gay, says he doesn’t think running in this district as a Democrat is going to be all that difficult, since,

“I’m an example of the average person stepping up to represent the people – unlike Congressman Graves, who has been bought and paid for.”

On the issue of the Trump-Russia investigation, DeWitt says “At the very least, the current Congress should censure the President.”

A Libertarian candidate for the 1st Congressional District thinks otherwise. Howard Kearney, is a computer programmer from Mandeville who is challenging incumbent Republican Steve Scalise, says, “The investigation should be dropped. It’s a huge waste of time to rehash the 2016 election. There more that Congress should be doing.”

Kearney ran in the same race in 2016 and came in fourth.

By noon, Democrat Rob Anderson had thrown his hat into the ring for the 3rd Congressional District seat. Although President Trump has already given his support to incumbent Clay Higgins, Anderson said he “is not worried about national endorsements because he is running for the people of Louisiana.” He said Washington is being run on political tenets rather than common sense.

The freelance author said he is a full-time candidate running a grassroots campaign for his first political race. Funded entirely through small donors, Anderson said he won’t accept corporate dollars as he seeks to get the money out of politics.

Jim Francis was not far behind as he qualified for the 1st District seat. Francis went on the attack against incumbent Congressman Steve Scalise. The Democrat from Covington said Scalise should not even be allowed to run until he answers questions about his relationship with Russian officials and his campaign funding from the NRA.

“Mr. Scalise, for once put this country over your political ambitions!” he declared.

The first-time candidate said his top priorities will be providing access to healthcare for more Americans and creating more high-paying jobs. He wants to see a transition out of “dying industries” like coal with more of a push towards renewable energy.

Ladies are turning up to challenge congressional incumbents as well.

Tammy Savoie, a Democrat from Jefferson Parish, is going up against House Majority Whip Steve Scalise for the 1st District seat. She took issue with the incumbent’s voting record in Congress, which she said shows he doesn’t care about the people of Louisiana. She cited his vote against minimum wage hikes for working people and another supporting tariffs that negatively impact Louisiana commerce imports.

“For too long Steve Scalise has led the partisan bickering in Congress,” Savoie maintains. “He has demonstrated callous indifference toward the people of Louisiana.”

The retired Air Force Lt. Colonel served as a military clinical psychologist for 38 years, before moving into the private sector. Healthcare is a top priority for her, as she said it broke her heart to know that people who needed treatment did not have access to care.

In the 3rd District, Mimi Methvin is taking on incumbent Clay Higgins. A Democrat who formerly served as a federal magistrate in Louisiana’s Western District, Methvin touted her experience in all three branches of government, having served as a legislative liaison to Gillis Long before working for the US Department of the Interior and then becoming a federal judge. She wants to be a voice for the people and advocate for constituents, rather than play into partisan politics.

“The incumbent, Mr. Higgins, has a John Wayne reputation, but he’s really been more like Barney Fife in Washington – doing the bidding of the Republican Party,” Methvin said.

Coastal restoration is among her key agenda items. She said Louisiana is in a position to be a leader in coastal innovation and she would like to see increased federal funding to protect the vanishing coast.

The 3rd District’s Clay Higgins will also have to fend off a fellow Republican. Josh Guillory of Lafayette says he’s running in order to fight for the needs of his neighbors and family, noting he differs from Higgins because, “First and foremost, I live in the district.”

Guillory, who is running on a platform of fiscal conservatism, notes that he’s “Blessed to have the endorsement and support of ‘America’s mayor’, Rudy Giuliani.”

Giuliani, who is serving as President Trump’s attorney, held a fundraiser for Guillory last month in Lafayette. The President, on the other hand, has endorsed Higgins, the incumbent.

Congressman Cedric Richmond (LA 2-D) has picked up several challengers.

Shawndra Rodriguez of Baton Rouge has signed up for the November 6th race, with no party affiliation. She says, “I’m running because I have a burden for people. I want to promote values and righteousness. I want to govern for the Lord.”

Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste of New Orleans is an independent, who says the incumbent is “a political establishment candidate”. Batiste is running on a platform of the “Poor People’s Campaign”, and says one of the issues he’s anxious to address is launching an investigation into where all the Katrina recovery money went.

Jesse Schmidt of Gretna, No Party, will be on the 2nd District ballot, too.

Incumbents Clay Higgins (LA3 – R) and Cedric Richmond (LA2 – D) qualified by proxy, as did 5th District Congressman Ralph Abraham. All were tied up in D.C., with votes today on the House floor.

And with that, the first of three days of qualifying is complete.

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