Triggered by the sudden upcoming resignation of Rep. Rodney Alexander, as previously noted the race was bound to attract a lot of interest given that any Member of Congress from the state who stays at least one term in office who runs for reelection has not lost since the World War II period and, as a result, open seats open up only rarely. This once-in-a-generation opportunity in the district sucked in 14 contestants, and perhaps six of them may be regarded as competitive – state Sen. Neil Riser, state Reps. Marcus Hunter, Robert Johnson, and Jay Morris, Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.
Riser, Morris, and Holloway are white Republicans, Johnson is a white Democrat, and Hunter and Mayo are black Democrats. The district’s registrant composition is about two-thirds white, one-third black and about a half Democrat and a quarter Republican, although in recent statewide and presidential elections Republican candidates, as did Alexander in his elections, have outpolled considerably Democrats.
Despite their racial and partisan differences, something else initially unites many of these front-runners – they seem short on agendas and long on whining, specifically that the timing of Alexander’s announcement and departure, his subsequent appointment by Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal to his administration and the quick coalescing of all of continuing GOP House members behind Riser plus a few other state Republican officeholders and even national congressional Republicans, all constitute some sinister anti-democratic plot to assist Riser. Interestingly, Republican Sen. David Vitter has remained uninvolved, although he voiced slight agreement with this judgment, leading to suspicion that he quietly might back someone other than Riser, perhaps Morris.
Morris and Johnson complained about it before qualifying, and Mayo alluded to it, although displaying a little more maturity than the two white representatives he added that what was done was done and he just needed to move forward. Holloway presented the shrillest denunciation at qualifying and ending up sounding much more like the Green Party candidate with his conspiratorial assertion that there was a move afoot to have an “appointed” representative.
While the Manichean worldview that Republicans Holloway and Morris expounded sounded more like the Democrats’ playbook out of the loony left that posits the American experience is a rigged game favoring the few that only government can combat and defeat, the district’s voters deserve more informed and substantive argumentation about the actual issues. It also makes one wonder whether, despite Morris’ and Johnson’s couple of years in the Legislature and Holloway’s three terms in Congress over two decades ago and his many years on the PSC, they truly understand how the American system works and believe in it, for it’s not timings and endorsements in how the will of the people gets articulated, but through votes cast, and over the next two months they have as equal chance as anybody else to articulate agendas that will win them enough resources and votes to get elected.
But if Holloway and Morris instead run campaigns more like a vendetta against Riser and thereby articulate an ideology more similar to the major Democrats in the race that plays to the populist resentment part of Louisiana’s political culture, they open the door especially to allowing Johnson to win. With Hunter and Mayo in the contest, the latter likely will outpoll the former but the former will capture enough votes to prevent probably either from making the runoff, in that the vast majorities of their votes will come from blacks.
Johnson will hide behind guns and God to present surface social conservative credentials in order to mask his support of redistributionist and statist ideology favored by national Democrats in the White House and who control the Senate currently to get enough of the white vote to make the runoff – voters who otherwise would go for Republican candidates who explicitly reject that government has any right to intrude upon the people’s liberty in order to pursue a collectivist agenda that concentrates on favoring special interests. However, if Holloway and Morris spend so much energy articulating their pessimistic narrative against Riser, voters will be discouraged from voting from Riser and distracted from realizing that any of those three represent a distinct choice differing from the likes of Hunter, Mayo, and Johnson.
This would allow Johnson into the runoff, ideally for him with Mayo or Hunter where he wins easily, but more likely with any of Holloway, Morris, or Riser which gives him a close to even-money shot. In a runoff, black turnout would be down more than white but almost all of their votes would go to him, thereby meaning if he could just get half of the white Democrat vote he would win.
And the more issueless, personality-based campaigns Republicans run, the more that plays into Democrats’ hands. By contrast, following the so-called “11th Commandment” will ensure that either two Republicans or one and a black Democrat enter the runoff, definitively sealing the seat for the GOP. Only if GOP candidates pursue the scorched earth policy that it’s better for him or a Democrat to win rather than another Republican instead of making policy arguments and letting the chips fall where they may with voters could the Republicans lose this seat.