Sam Hanna Jr.

Fifth District Congressman Ralph Abraham has a big decision to make.

He must decide whether to seek re-election this fall or retire from the U.S. House of Representatives. The latter, of course, would be in line with a pledge Abraham made just six years ago when he first was a candidate for the Fifth District seat.

It seems not too many people recall that then-candidate Abraham vowed to serve no more than three terms in the House if he was elected in that 2014 election cycle. It was a pledge that mirrored a move Dr. John Cooksey made in 1996 when he, like Abraham would do years later, stepped away from a lucrative medical practice to pursue a life — though brief — in public service. Cooksey did his three terms in the House and then lost a race to unseat U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu in 2002. Thereafter, Cooksey returned to Monroe to practice medicine.

So, what’s Abraham, a Republican from Alto in Richland Parish, going to do?

Fresh off a third-place finish in a bruising governor’s race last fall, Abraham is still widely regarded throughout the Fifth District. So much so that here’s predicting Abraham wouldn’t get much blowback if he opted to seek re-election. He would be criticized in some corners for going back on his word, but any negativity that would arise from Abraham seeking a fourth term in the House would pale in comparison to the warm reception he would encounter out on the campaign trail. Mark my word.

While Abraham has yet to make his intentions known publicly, there’s already a candidate in the Fifth District race who says he’s running regardless of what Abraham decides to do. His name is Scotty Robinson, a young, ambitious Republican police juror from Ouachita Parish.

To suggest Robinson would have his work cut out for him if Abraham was a candidate for re-election would be an understatement. Yet, if Abraham decides to leave the House, Robinson would have a leg up on any candidate who joined the fray, though it certainly would not be insurmountable.

It’s widely known Abraham’s chief of staff, Luke Letlow, would like to succeed his boss in the House. It’s known as well that Letlow has been putting the pieces in place to launch his own campaign for Congress post-Abraham, which would suggest Letlow already knows what his boss has in mind. If he’s smart, he would keep it to himself and use the information to his benefit, such as working the fundraising circuit in Washington to finance his campaign back in Louisiana.

All of this yak about whether Abraham will or will not seek re-election and who may or may not be a candidate to succeed him could be for naught beyond 2020. Because once the final figures are in on the 2020 Census and we officially learn the population of northeastern Louisiana has shrunk over the past decade, the Fifth District, as we know it today, most likely will disappear. It will become a casualty of redistricting, and the outcome probably won’t be good for any aspiring candidate for Congress from our neck of the woods.

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