Under Louisiana law, all candidates, regardless of party, run in the national General Election, in what’s been dubbed a “jungle primary.” If no candidate receives a majority, then the top two, regardless of party, face each other in a runoff, which this year will be on December 6. On November 4, Democrats led in both the 5th and 6th Districts, but they received far from 50% plus one, and the Republicans’ votes were divided among multiple candidates. Moreover, both districts were drawn by the legislature (R) to favor the Republicans. With the Republican establishment uniting behind the GOP’s top vote-getter in both contests, the party is expected to keep both districts in the Republican column.
“It’s highly unlikely that the Democrats could win either race,” says a Bayou State insider (D). “It’s a forgone conclusion that Abraham and Graves [the GOP candidates] will take these two seats,” notes another political operative (independent), who opines, “It’s disturbing to me that we continue to perpetuate these races where the Democrats have no chance of winning… Even some of the papers are editorializing that the elections are over.”
In the 5th District (Monroe, etc.), Republican Ralph Abraham and Democrat Jamie Mayo were the top two contenders in the November 4 election, leading a pack of nine candidates. Mayo led with 28%, followed by Abraham with 23%. Zach Dasher (R), a relative of the Duck Dynasty family, who came in third with 22%, ran to the right of Abraham, but has since endorsed Abraham. The 5th District is currently represented by US Rep. Vance McAllister (R), who was videotaped kissing a staff member, announced he would not seek reelection, then changed his mind and ran again, only to finish fourth in the open primary; he has made no endorsement in the runoff.
Abraham is a physician and a pilot, and has contributed his services in Haiti, Afghanistan and other countries. He grew up on a farm in Northeast Louisiana. He has been endorsed by Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) and by US Rep. Charles Boustany (R). The district is 61% white, 35% black. Voter registration is 27% Republican; Mitt Romney carried the district with 61%.
Mayo, 57, has been mayor of Monroe for some 13 years. He is African-American. This is his second congressional race; in 2013, he finished third with 15% in 2013. In his tenure as mayor, he has stressed economic development. “Mayo is a pretty impressive guy,” says the insider (D), “but the district is stacked pretty heavy for Republicans. And I doubt he can raise the money.”
In the 6th District (Baton Rouge, etc.), the runoff is for the seat being vacated by US Rep. Bill Cassidy (R), who is running for the US Senate. The Democrats’ blast from the past, former governor/former inmate Edwin Edwards, 87, led the 12-candidate field with 30%, followed by Republican Garrett Graves with 27%. The district is 74% white, 22% black; about one-third are registered Republicans. Romney got 66% here and about 64% of the November 4 primary went to Republican candidates. “There are some pockets of Edwards support that don’t show up in the polls,” says the insider (D), “but it’s a very Republican district. Even the best Democratic candidate would have trouble winning this one.”
While Edwards is the underdog he is conceding nothing, telling Baton Rouge’s The Advocate that he came in first in the open primary “without having one paid television or radio ad,” though he hopes to get the money to get on TV for the runoff.
Graves, who was Gov. Jindal’s coastal advisor, has been endorsed by the NRA and National Right to Life, as well as by Jindal and Boustany. He raised $1 million, with $250,000 on hand after November 4. He is also tech-savvy, conducting much of his campaign through social media and Internet advertising.