Qualifying for Louisiana’s 2018 midterm elections is complete, and none of the congressional incumbents will go unchallenged.
Familiar political faces were abundant throughout the morning of the last day of qualifying, beginning with State Representative Rick Edmonds (R-Baton Rouge) officially entering the race for Secretary of State. The former vice-president of the Louisiana Family Forum touted his experience in the state House, as he promised to bring integrity and transparency to the office. Increasing voter participation and improving security are his stated top priorities.
“It’s time to build a wall around our voting process and all of our data,” he said.
Edmonds joins fellow House Republican Julie Stokes (R-Kenner) and ex-state Senator A.G. Crowe (R-Mandeville) vying for the only statewide seat on the November 6 ballot — a vacancy that came about when former SOS Tom Schedler resigned in the wake of sexual harassment allegations.
As he promises to be a watchdog for voters — to ensure their vote counts — Edmonds contends his work ethic sets him apart from the other candidates. That’s more than a bit of hubris, considering the fact that Stokes returned to her legislative work in February, while still recovering from her breast cancer surgery.
Five other candidates added their names to the Secretary of State race Friday, too: Republican Heather Cloud of Turkey Creek, Republican Thomas Kennedy of Metairie, Democrat Gwen Collins-Greenup of Clinton, and no-party candidate Matt Moreau of Zachary.
Interim Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin, who moved up to fill the post when Schedler resigned, also threw his hat in the ring at the end of the day. A Republican, he had previously stated he had no intention of seeking election to the post, but told reporters he changed his mind.
“I made the final decision at 4:20, with my wife,” Ardoin stated. Qualifying closed at 4:30.
Interesting note: Ardoin tweeted last month about his “44th day in office as 44th SOS”, with a selfie showing off his new vanity license plate, “SOS 44”.
The other big surprise on the final day of qualifying involved the 5th District race.
It wasn’t a surprise that independent Billy Burkette of Slaughter signed up to make a second attempt to unseat incumbent Ralph Abraham. It was that the man who claims to be both the chairman of the Louisiana Band of Choctaw and the tribe’s chief of police was arrested immediately after signing his papers, for allegedly “impersonating a law enforcement officer.” He was taken away in handcuffs.
Abraham will not go unopposed, though. Democrat Jessee Fleenor, a farmer from Tangipahoa Parish, said he wants to offer people a choice aside from the “overpaid horse doctor” currently in office. Fleenor takes issue with Abraham — who is both a physician and a veterinarian — because of his voting record to disassemble the Affordable Care Act.
“A doctor who does not believe in Medicaid is no doctor at all,” he said.
Fleenor went so far as to accuse Abraham of breaking the Hippocratic oath to do no harm because he said taking medicine away from poor people is certainly doing harm.
Kyle Randol, a Libertarian from Monroe, has also entered the race.
Congressman Garret Graves made an early Friday appearance, becoming the day’s first incumbent to appear in person for qualifying. Others have sent staffers to register, including 3rd District Congressman Clay Higgins, qualifying by proxy on Wednesday. Thursday, Higgins put in a personal appearance at the Secretary of State, presumably to get his share of media attention.
Graves touted his efforts toward federal infrastructure projects currently underway in the 6th District (which stretches from Houma north to Baton Rouge, and east through Livingston Parish), including construction on I-10 in Baton Rouge and the Comite River Diversion project. But, he says, that’s not enough.
“There’s more work to be done, and I believe there’s more priorities to address,” he said.
Coastal restoration is among the congressman’s priorities, should he win his re-election bid. He said legislation is moving through the process that will increase federal funding for hurricane protections along the coast.
Just minutes after qualifying, Graves got another challenger for his seat. Democrat Andie Saizan of Springfield joins fellow Democrat Justin DeWitt of Baton Rouge and independent candidate Devin Graham of Gonzales on the ballot.
Saizan said she is running because there’s a desperate need for change in representation of the 6th Congressional District, to better reflect the needs of its working people.
She cited Graves’ views on the ACA, Medicare, and Medicaid, pointing out, “Mr. Graves voted to take away healthcare from hundreds of thousands of people in Louisiana.”
If elected, Saizan plans to seek sensible solutions for healthcare. Campaign finance reform was another key issue for the congressional hopeful, as she said she will not accept PAC donations.
House Majority Whip Steve Scalise also made a personal appearance on the final day of qualifying, walking in with a purple and gold crutch — just over a year after he was shot in a Virginia ballpark.
He began his comments to the assembled media by saying it’s an honor to represent the 1st CD and to serve as House Majority Whip. In that role, he said it is vitally important for Republicans to maintain the majority in Congress and “not let Nancy Pelosi take back the House.” To do that, he said he will work to make permanent the tax cuts passed for the middle class and tackle regulations that impede small business growth.
Metairie Democrat Lee Ann Dugas sees Scalise’s job performance differently, and signed on to challenge him. She said change is needed in Washington, and pointed to the congressional election cycle every two years as evidence of the need for continual change in leadership.
She said her platforms in the race are simple: “Yes to change, yes to equality, yes to family.”
Dugas joins Scalise, and Democrats Tammy Savoie and Jim Francis, who qualified Wednesday — along with Libertarian Howard Kearney. Hammond independent “Ferd” Jones signed onto the race Thursday.
Mark Halverson quietly became the first candidate to qualify for the 4th District seat. With no party affiliation, the candidate got signed up ahead of incumbent Mike Johnson, who strolled into the Secretary of State’s office shortly after lunchtime.
Accompanied by his entire family, the Bossier City Republican said maintaining his party’s majority in Congress is essential to keep the forward momentum the GOP has seen under the Trump Administration. If the freshman congressmen wins his second term, he said affordable and accessible healthcare will be a significant goal. Supporting the military is also at the top of his list, as his district is home to both Barksdale Air Force Base and Fort Polk.
Shortly after Johnson put in his bid for re-election, a Democrat turned up to challenge him. Ryan Trundle, a Shreveport Democrat, said he wants to go to Washington to be a voice for working people.
“We don’t have any representation in Congress. The millionaires do, but the working class, the middle class is left behind,” he said.
Trundle said he’s running a grassroots campaign made up of volunteers. A key issue for voters he’s met is raising wages because he said working people’s salaries have been stagnant for decades.
Libertarian Aaron Andrus became the 7th and final candidate in the 3rd District race, qualifying by proxy. Rufus Craig, Chairman of the Libertarian Party, registered his candidate, hoping to “give people a third choice.” The Westlake resident is seeking to unseat incumbent Clay Higgins.
He joins Democrats Rob Anderson, Mimi Methvin, Larry Rader, and Verone Thomas, and Republican Josh Guillory on the ballot in southwest Louisiana.