SHREVEPORT — If Louisiana’s 4th Congressional District race was an Olympic event, there would be a frantic heat for Republicans while the lone Democrat would seem to have a lane to himself to make the final.
“I expect to face (Democrat) Marshall Jones in the runoff,” said state Rep. Mike Johnson, R-Bossier City, who is among the Republican favorites.
Johnson, cardiologist Trey Baucum of Shreveport, former state Sen. Elbert Guillory of Opelousas, Shreveport City Councilman Oliver Jenkins and Shreveport attorney Rick John are the five Republicans who qualified for the Nov. 8 primary election.
That left Jones, a wealthy Shreveport attorney, in the enviable position as the only Democrat in the race to replace incumbent Congressman John Fleming, R-Minden, who is giving up the seat to run for the U.S. Senate.
“People smarter than me believe I’ll make the runoff,” Jones said. “I not only expect to be in the runoff, but I expect to win the race.”
But even though Jones is the favorite for a runoff spot, a Democrat hasn’t won the 4th District seat in 20 years.
“It will be difficult, if not impossible, for a Democrat to get elected, so I feel confident we’ll win in the runoff,” Johnson said.
Jones disagreed and pointed to Democrat Gov. John Bel Edwards’ carrying the 4th as proof the right Democrat can break through.
Though Shreveport-Bossier is the population hub of the district, the sprawling 4th inches into northeastern Louisiana with Union Parish, hugs the western border deep into southern Louisiana, penetrates central Louisiana and into Opelousas in Acadiana, Guillory’s home turf.
“My gut feeling is it will be Marshall versus a Republican, which will be me,” Baucum said. “In the end the 4th District will send a Republican to Washington who best represents the district’s conservative values.”
“There’s no question that being the only Democrat is a big advantage,” John said.
But not every Republican is conceding a runoff spot to Jones.
“We believe it will be one of the Republicans from Shreveport against Elbert Guillory,” said Guillory, who was the only candidate outside of the Shreveport-Bossier City market to qualify for the race.
“I’d like to believe the voters are more interested in voting for the person rather than the party,” Jenkins said. “I don’t think the analysis that says there’s one Democrat in the race so he will make the runoff is an automatic, especially since Marshall’s positions aren’t very different from the Republicans. But it is important to have the resources to convey your message to the voters.”
Those resources, the candidates mostly agree, must include about $1 million in campaign cash. Jenkins led all candidates in the most recent second quarter campaign finance reports, followed closely by Baucum and then Johnson before a dropoff among the rest.
Two candidates from Shreveport with no party affiliation, Mark David Halverson and Kenneth Krefft, had not filed statements of candidacy or campaign finance reports with the Federal Election Commission by the second-quarter reporting deadline.
Though he didn’t report any fundraising in his second-quarter Federal Election Commission, Jones said he has loaned his campaign $200,000 and was the first and so far only candidate to air TV commercials.
“We go back up on TV (Tuesday),” Jones said. “I was at least six months behind everyone else, so it was incumbent on me to catch up and I think I have. We have a budget in place to run a formidable campaign on all platforms.”
If Jones does cruise into the runoff, that leaves the Republicans scrambling to elevate themselves from the pack.
“I’m the only true outsider — not a politician or attorney — and I believe that resonates,” Baucum said.
Johnson touts his “record versus rhetoric.” Guillory has a similar refrain: “I have an incredible amount of experience and preparedness,” he said.
Jenkins, a retired Marine lieutenant colonel, said his military credentials will catch on with those concerned about national security. “I’m the only candidate with that background,” he said.
And John portrayed himself as someone who “will fight” for the rank and file voters.
Voters will have a chance to see and hear the candidates at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Broadmoor Neighborhood Association 4th Congressional District forum at Broadmoor Presbyterian Church in Shreveport. Association President Rob Broussard said all eight candidates have been invited. The forum is open to the public.
by Greg Hilburn