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GOP trio emerges as LA-4 CD favorites

Qualifying has closed for the selection of Republican Rep. John Fleming’s successor, with the northwest/western Louisiana district’s next U.S. House member likely coming from one of a prominent social conservative, a Main Street Republican, or a political newcomer riding the outsider wave notable in this election cycle.

Relevant candidates filing include physician Dr. Trey Baucum, Shreveport City Councilman Oliver Jenkins, state Rep. Mike Johnson, former legislator Elbert Guillory, attorney Rick John – Republicans all – joined by Democrat lawyer Marshall Jones. All are white and from Shreveport/Bossier, except for Guillory, who is black and from the southern part of the district.

That list contains the major candidates who could win, with John not among them. He has lagged badly in fundraising, well under $100,000, compared to Baucum and Jenkins who each have topped a half million bucks, and Johnson with over a quarter of a million dollars. Nor is Guillory; while he has a high profile, having most recently run unsuccessfully for lieutenant governor, his campaign seems as desultory as that one with only around $100,000 raised.

Jones represents the wildcard. He ran in 1988 to replace former Gov. Buddy Roemer when he took office in Baton Rouge but only received four percent of the vote. Since then, he has become well-known in the legal community and helped out several judges in their contests, meaning he can raise enough money to be competitive (he has reported no fundraising, having just recently declared his candidacy). He has been relatively inactive in Democrat affairs, and in fact over the previous decade more than half of his campaign contributions at all levels have gone to Republicans (including one to Jenkins).

He appears to want to follow the strategy of area Democrats in 2008 when they put forward former longtime First District Attorney Paul Carmouche, from the legal community who tried to distance himself from the national party. While Carmouche ended up defeated narrowly by Fleming, the only Republican running who had any elected experience at all (a single term as Webster Parish coroner), Jones occupies a much different space that does not even guarantee him a runoff spot.

In 2008 Carmouche had great difficulty in dispatching in the primary (party primaries existed for a short while then) a black Democrat from the southern part of the district who hardly campaigned, being forced into a runoff and grabbing only 62 percent of the vote. Democrats’ core black constituency will have little leakage to Guillory in Caddo and Bossier Parishes, but Guillory will make inroads into it farther south, potentially costing Jones a runoff spot.

That will happen only if two of Baucum, Jenkins, and Johnson can take votes mostly from the third. This will hinge on voters’ perceptions about how “establishmentarian” each is perceived. Baucum, not elected to anything, can best present himself as an anti-Washington candidate; Jenkins will come across as the most tied to a Republican establishment; Johnson can draw upon his well-known judicial and legislative defenses of traditional social values that demonstrates separation from Washington elites that undemocratically (and with sketchy Constitutional justification) redefined marriage and permitted adult men to share public restrooms with young girls.

Thus, how recalcitrant the majority conservative electorate feels about existing political elites and their recent actions will determine which one or two of them will advance to the inevitable runoff. The more upset it feels, the more likely either or both of Baucum and Johnson advance; less so, and Jenkins’ chances increase.

While all three can claim fiscal conservatism, Baucum has no record onto which he can read in anything, Johnson has argued in word and acted in deed consistently against taxes in the statehouse, and although Jenkins has more often than not fought against tax and fee increases for Shreveport, his assents to some of these make him most vulnerable. For social issues, again Baucum has no record, Johnson’s conservatism on these is unquestioned and he will corner the market on voters seeing these as important, but Jenkins will find it tough sledding to pick up social conservative support given his vote for Shreveport’s so-called Fairness Ordinance that unduly restricted business personnel and service practices.

In a close contest among these three, whoever wins the most general election votes will win a runoff against Jones. If a pair do well enough to ace out Jones, if Jenkins is one he would become the almost-certain winner as he can better position himself to the political center. But if excluded from that pair, that might prove a very interesting contest.

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