To the average disgruntled taxpaying voter, term limits for elected officials sound like a good thing.
It was such a wonderful idea many moons ago that Louisiana voters altered the state Constitution to limit the terms for state lawmakers. In fact, the Legislature was purged last fall for the second time since term limits were enacted in the 1990s, and once again, we are witnessing lobbyists and career bureaucrats “explain” to newly elected legislators how the “system” works in Baton Rouge.
Now you know how bad legislation becomes law.
Some six years ago when Dr. Ralph Abraham first announced his candidacy for the 5th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives, he vowed not to serve more than three terms, or six years, in the House. Abraham’s term-limit pledge mirrored a move Dr. John Cooksey made in 1996 when he was bitten by the bug to seek elective office. Like Cooksey, Abraham is a long-time Republican.
An interested party, or individual, urged Abraham to abandon the term-limits folly and advised him that the only path toward obtaining the influence in the House to do something big for the 5th District was by building seniority, or remaining in the House long enough to become a committee chairman or possibly land a spot among the congressional leadership like Congressman Steve Scalise of Jefferson Parish. Abraham ignored the advice, of course, and soon his brief congressional career will come to an end.
There are a handful of candidates vying for the 5th District seat in the November elections. Among them are three Republicans who would be considered the heavy weights in the race including Abraham’s chief of staff, Luke Letlow of Start; state Rep. Lance Harris of Alexandria; and Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson of West Monroe. There are a few Democrats in the race as well but none of them are household names. They don’t need to be since some 36 percent of the registered voters in the 5th District are minorities, which represent the base of the Democrat vote in Louisiana.
It’s far too early to say one candidate has emerged as the front-runner, but if we were to rank the candidates by the amount of money they’ve raised thus far, Letlow clearly has an advantage. He’s raised more than $500,000. And thanks to COVID-19, this race most likely will be determined by which candidate can buy the most television commercials and spend the most money on social media advertising. All without taking a firm position on anything.
Regardless of which candidate emerges as Abraham’s successor, he or she will take a seat in the U.S. House with the least amount of seniority of any of the House members from Louisiana since none of the incumbents are in danger of being unseated. That includes Congressman Clay Higgins of the Third District, who attracted a number of challengers.
Next spring when the state Legislature gathers to tackle redistricting on the heels of the 2020 Census, it will be Scalise and Congressman Cedric Richmond who will largely decide the outcome of redrawing the congressional districts. After all, they’ve got the most seniority. Simply put, the 5th District congressman’s wants and wishes will fall on deaf ears.
Preliminary plans for redrawing the state’s congressional districts would likely result in carving out a district in the heart of the state, beginning in north central Louisiana and eventually ending up in the area of the Florida parishes that currently is in the 5th District. The greater Monroe area, with the Mississippi River being the border to the east, would get shoved into the same congressional district with Shreveport. It would run south through what is now the 4th District to just north of Lake Charles.
That, my friends, means the new 5th District congressman shouldn’t bother buying a home in Washington. Renting will suffice.
Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at email@example.com.