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Independent entrance could alter radically race dynamics

Already shaping up to be interesting, Louisiana’s Third Congressional District contest which selects nominees in a little under a year may be getting even more fascinating if state Rep. Jerome “Dee” Richard enters the fray.

Richard, who has run as an independent, would join a declared field of state Rep. Nickie Monica, a Republican, another in businessman Kristian Magar, and attorney Ravi Sangisetty, a Democrat. Others, like Richard, ponder entering but Richard’s entry, should he choose to run as an independent, would alter the contest’s dynamics more seriously than probably anybody else.

With the advent of closed primaries for federal office in Louisiana’s last election cycle, Richard could be the only candidate that would avoid any kind of runoff or runoff primary to make it to the general election in a little over a year. This would give him a small advantage in terms of resource conservation and make him less likely to attract negative attention from opponents.

But of more tantalizing concern for the major parties’ nominees is this would alter the trajectory of the general election in unpredictable ways. Chances are slim he could win in a three-way matchup with the other two nominees – around his little corner of the bayous independence plays well as an alternative to the GOP in the historically loyal Democrat area, but it will be a disadvantage district-wide especially with major party financial support – but his presence would guarantee no candidate could get a majority and he would siphon votes off from them.

The question is, will a Republican or Democrat suffer more defection because of his presence? That really can’t be answered until the actual nominees win their spots and we can see the various experience and personalities of the pair. For example, if voters are really in an anti-politician mood, if he is matched up against other officeholders he would probably draw more from them than against political newcomers.

Still, some reasonable, general inferences may be drawn. If it’s going to look like a big election year for the GOP, the national Democrats probably won’t put much into this seat and Richard’s intervention won’t amount to much. Compounding that will be Democrats realize even if they pull it out, that could trigger the redistricting away of that seat after just a couple of years, another thing which may put a damper on quality Democrats from pursuing the spot and reducing its competitiveness an thereby Richard’s effect.

Only if it looks like Democrats could be competitive in the district might Richard’s presence make a difference. In that case, all other things equal, he may detract more from the Republican candidate. National Democrats have attained a level of some toxicity in the district, with incumbent Rep. Charlie Melancon’s duck-and-cover, gallivanting style of the past few months disappointing many voters not helping, he will attract some of the disaffected. But national Republicans only now are beginning to regain their conservative credentials so for those still turned off by their straying from them who were never fans of Democrats in the first place, Richard might be an attractive alternative especially if he tries to sound some conservative themes in this putative campaign.

In short, those who became alienated enough typically voting Republican who took a flyer on Melancon over the past few years and are not ready to come back to the GOP likely outnumber those usually voting Democrat disgusted enough to flop over to an independent but not ready to touch a screen for a Republican. But there’s so much else that could happen between now and then that the only sure thing about a Richard entry would be an intriguing race would become that much more.

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