Nine people qualified last week as candidates to represent the 5th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in light of U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham’s decision not to seek re-election.

Abraham, R-Alto, pledged in 2014 to serve for only three two-year terms in the Congress when he first campaigned.

Of the nine candidates, three have raised more than $100,000 for their campaigns since earlier this year, 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. All three are Republicans.

As of earlier this week, Letlow had raised some $573,000; Harris showed receipts for some $120,000; and Robinson had received some $140,000, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Grambling State University Executive Vice President Martin Lemelle Jr., a Democrat, also qualified as a candidate.

“We live in the greatest Nation on Earth and should always invest in the hard-working people of our communities,” said Lemelle. “In Congress, I will fight to ensure Louisiana moves forward.”

Lemelle, who grew up and still lives in Lincoln Parish, described himself as a fiscal conservative.

Letlow credited his time as Abraham’s chief of staff in Washington D.C. as a source of his political experience.

“Although I’ve served much of my adult life in public service, qualifying as a candidate for public office marks a new milestone,” Letlow said. “I believe the journey I’ve taken has made me uniquely qualified to serve the great people across this district.”

After qualifying, Harris referred to his decision to enter politics after he was 50 in opposition to policies then enacted under President Obama.

“We need someone with a business background and real-life experience that will do what they say and are not afraid to take a stand,” Harris said. “Police are being defunded, ideas are being silenced, and history is being erased while too many of our leaders are afraid to say something because it may offend someone. Let me assure you, I am not afraid.”

In his remarks, Robinson appeared to refer to Letlow and Harris each when he distinguished himself as someone who worked side-by-side with constituents.

“While my opponents are out rubbing elbows with politicians in Washington D.C. and Baton Rouge, I was qualified with every phone call I took from you with issues both big and small,” Robinson said. “I’ve qualified every day for the last 10 years.”

“I’m a public servant, not a politician,” he added.

Other people qualifying as candidates in the 5th Congressional District included Sandra “Candy” Christophe, a Democrat from Alexandria; Allen Guillory Sr., a Republican from Opelousas; Matt Hasty, a Republican from Pineville; Jesse Lagarde, a Democrat from Amite; and Phillip Snowden, a Democrat from Monroe.

The 5th District includes 24 parishes throughout northeast, central and eastern Louisiana including portions of the Florida Parishes. The 5th District is the largest congressional district in the state geographically.

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