Aug 22, 2013 12:05 PM by Melinda Deslatte/AP (Photo Courtesy: MGN Online)
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Fourteen candidates signed up for the October election to fill the 5th District congressional seat representing northeast and central Louisiana before the registration deadline Wednesday, including a former congressman.
Clyde Holloway, a Republican from Forest Hill who served three terms in the U.S. House two decades ago, registered for the election in the final hours of qualifying.
Holloway, now serving on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, said he jumped into the race because he thought Gov. Bobby Jindal and exiting U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander unfairly tried to orchestrate the timeline to help elect Republican state Sen. Neil Riser, R-Columbia.
"This thing stinks, and I'll put it that way. And that's probably my biggest reason," Holloway said. "We just want the people to have a choice of a vote. I feel like we tried to have an appointed congressman by the governor and by Rodney."
Jindal, Alexander and Riser have denied that accusation, which has been lodged by several candidates.
Alexander, the state's senior congressman, is resigning in September to take a job in the Jindal administration.
Alexander announced two weeks ago that he wouldn't seek re-election in 2014, citing partisan gridlock. A day later, Alexander was tapped to be Jindal's new veterans affairs secretary, with plans to leave Congress in September.
Jindal then set the election dates, giving candidates only a few days to decide if they wanted to run.
Riser, a Jindal ally, immediately announced plans to seek the 5th District seat, after having traveled the district with Alexander for several months before the congressman's resignation announcement. Within days, he had lined up endorsements from three Republican members of Louisiana's congressional delegation.
Also signing up Wednesday was state Rep. Jay Morris, R-Monroe, who said he would be an effective voice for "free market conservatism."
Morris, a first-term lawmaker, has clashed with Jindal over budget decisions, supporting a fiscal conservative group that accused Jindal of irresponsible financial policies.
"I think my record as an independent voice in the Legislature can be carried to Washington," he said.
Morris was among the first candidates to accuse Jindal and Alexander of trying to rig the election for Riser's benefit, but he was more muted with the criticism after signing up for the race.
"It's going to be difficult for anyone that was not fully prepared or didn't realize this was coming. Raising money is always a difficult thing, particularly one where the cycle is so short. But we're just going to do the best that we can. We feel like we have a good message," he said.
Other elected officials who signed up as 5th District candidates earlier in the week include state Reps. Marcus Hunter, D-Monroe, and Robert Johnson, D-Marksville, and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo, also a Democrat.
Additional contenders include Weldon Russell, a Democrat and former state lawmaker from Amite; political newcomer Blake Weatherly, a Republican from Calhoun; Vance McAllister, a Republican from Monroe; two independents and candidates from the Green and Libertarian parties.
The 5th District covers all or part of 24 parishes across northeast Louisiana, through much of central Louisiana and including all the areas that run along the Mississippi state line. It is one of the nation's poorest congressional districts.