BATON ROUGE — The field of candidates for Louisiana's surprise fall congressional election is set, and the contenders have limited time to try to distinguish themselves from the crowd.
The 14 men who jumped into the race had fewer than two weeks to decide whether they thought they had a shot at winning the seat being vacated by Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, the state's senior congressman.
Now, they have eight weeks to pull together campaigns, hit the airwaves and speech circuit and knock on doors pitching themselves to voters before the Oct.
"We're just going to raise money, do the best we can and try to get our message out," said state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, one of the candidates on the ballot.
That's no easy feat in a district that covers all or part of 24 parishes.
The 5th District includes at least part of every parish that runs along the Mississippi state line from East Carroll Parish in the northeast down to East and West Feliciana parishes in the Baton Rouge area and over to Washington Parish in the Florida Parishes of the state's far eastern corner.
The seat represents constituents in four television markets.
"A short race in a district as big as this district is, it's not fair to the candidates running," said candidate Clyde Holloway, a Republican member of the Public Service Commission and former congressman. "It's a hard district."
The tight calendar also means that the district's 481,000 registered voters get little time to vet the candidates, review their platforms and sift through the rhetoric before deciding who they believe would best represent them in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Deep policy discussions would seem nearly impossible with such a small window of time before election day.
Besides Morris and Holloway, also on the crowded ballot are state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia; state Rep. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe; state Rep. Robert Johnson, D-Marksville; Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, a Democrat; Weldon Russell, a Democrat and former state lawmaker from Amite; and Henry Herford Jr., a Libertarian from Delhi.