The fate of this fall’s congressional election was pretty much set when the U.S. Supreme Court told U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick to stand down, Louisiana would use the Legislature’s status quo cards.
That means the five white Republican incumbents and one black Democrat face roughly the same voters who elected them last time out. For a state that loves its political theater, the climax of this story is predictable from the first acts.
His northwest Louisiana district re-elected Congressman Mike Johnson, R-Benton, who did not draw an opponent. US Representatives Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; Troy Carter, D-New Orleans; Julia Letlow, R-Start; and Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge; have adversaries who are neither known nor well funded.
The only hope for political drama this fall is the race for the 3rd congressional district, which spans southwestern parishes from Atchafalaya to Sabine, Lafayette and Lake Charles, and has been represented since 2017 by Republican Republican American Clay Higgins, of Lafayette. .
“It’s only the race that I can see that has the potential to become a race,” said Roy Fletcher, one of the state’s top campaign strategists for the past 40 years.
But it would take a well-funded Republican, he said. This candidate is expected to exploit discontent in Lake Charles over Higgins’ inability to win significant hurricane recovery funds and persuade the business community of Lafayette, which has been embarrassed by the antics of Higgins on social media. A combination of disgruntled Republicans and a sizable portion of Democratic voters is the recipe for dark red Acadiana.
“He must have some money, maybe some endorsements. But he has to hit the guy,” Fletcher said.
US Senator John N. Kennedy and Attorney General Jeff Landry, the state’s top conservatives, obviously don’t see this scenario as likely and have endorsed Higgins.
Of the seven in the running against Higgins, the pundit community has anointed Republican Holden Hoggatt. He is largely unknown, but his name sounds like something out of a JD Salinger novel. An assistant district attorney in the Lafayette district attorney’s office, Hoggatt says he’s raising a lot of money, but doesn’t have to report how much until October.
The question of money, however, is less treacherous than a simple question: Was Joe Biden legitimately elected president? The Democrats want a straight yes. Republicans want to hear the election was stolen from Donald Trump. About 70% of Acadianas voted for Trump.
When “Talk Louisiana” host Jim Engster popped the question, Hoggatt went into full lawyer mode and never said yes or no.
“He’s tiptoeing,” Fletcher said. “And that’s not what the district wants. The neighborhood is rural, blue collar and they like it straight, in your face.
Once a Democratic stronghold, Acadiana has turned to conservative populism. Allen Parish, for example, cornered by Walter Mondale against President Ronald Reagan in 1984. As of November 2020, 77% of Parish voters supported Trump’s re-election.
Acadiana was the base from which Edwin W. Edwards and John Breaux dominated Louisiana politics from the 1970s through the 1990s. Cajun accents, fluency in French, and deep family roots seemed to be key.
With videos that trumpeted Trump’s brash, anti-government message, in 2016 Higgins beat Scott Angelle, a former lieutenant governor with an accent and deep roots. Angelle avoided the ubiquitous campaign biography and instead published a family cookbook.
Higgins, 60, grew up in Covington, sold cars in Baton Rouge and Texas before moving to Port Barre. It was with the St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office that Higgins discovered his true calling: making talking yet entertaining videos.
Professor G. Pearson Cross of the University of Louisiana at Monroe, who has studied Acadian politics for years, says social issues have eroded Democratic support.
“Acadiana has always been a small, conservative, island town. But it seems the change in the importance of abortion in a heavily Catholic region was when the 3rd District chose to go in a different direction.
Baton Rouge pollster John Couvillon pointed out that in his two re-election campaigns, Higgins drew more opponents than any other congressional incumbent, but won an overwhelming majority: 68% of the vote in 2020 and 56% in a 2018 field that included the current Lafayette mayor and a former federal judge.
“It comes down to whether you as a voter like or dislike Clay Higgins,” Couvillon said. “The Third is a rural, blue-collar neighborhood and so far they like Higgins.”