State Rep. Lance Harris last week called on his fellow 5th Congressional District candidate, Luke Letlow, to exit the race and find legal representation in light of recent allegations that Letlow’s campaign tried to ‘buy out’ a Ouachita Parish police juror in the race.
As previously reported, Ouachita Parish Police Juror Scotty Robinson has claimed that Letlow’s campaign made three offers to him since last summer, enticing him with a job or financial assistance if he would exit the race.
Robinson, a Republican from West Monroe, first aired those allegations in a Facebook video but later included them in a signed letter to the Federal Election Commission, an election regulatory agency. In his complaint to the FEC, Robinson also revealed text messages he claimed to have received from a Ruston bank president and local minister conveying a second and third offer to exit the race in exchange for something of value.
Letlow, a Republican from Start, has denied the allegations and threatened to pursue legal action against Robinson.
Last week, Harris, a Republican from Alexandria, fired off a denunciation of Letlow’s campaign in an interview on the Lafayette-based Moon Griffon Show.
“The allegations against Luke Letlow are serious,” Harris told Griffon. “It’s a federal crime to bribe an elected official, and Scotty Robinson is an elected official.”
According to Robinson, Letlow’s campaign and others had expressed concerns that he and Letlow might split the vote among conservative voters in northern Louisiana and allow Harris to emerge as the leading Republican candidate in the race.
In remarks to Griffon, Harris suggested Letlow should consider dropping out of the race.
“I guess we’ll have to wait on the public integrity division of the U.S. Department of Justice to decide whether to prosecute Luke or not,” Harris said. “If it’s true, I think Luke should get out of the race, find a lawyer, and try to get his life straight.”
In an interview with The Ouachita Citizen Tuesday following a candidates’ forum in Monroe, Letlow chalked up Robinson’s allegations and Harris’ remarks as part of a political game to draw attention to their campaigns.
“It was false,” he told The Ouachita Citizen. “I’m not surprised that candidates who are behind would say things like this.”
According to FEC data, Letlow leads all nine candidates in the 5th Congressional District race with a fundraising haul of some $572,000 available for campaign spending. FEC reports show Harris has raised some $112,000 while Robinson has $139,000, including $88,000 he personally lent his campaign.
Robinson acknowledged his weak fundraising and alluded to Letlow’s strong campaign finances in comments to The Ouachita Citizen.
“I think it’s a fantastic idea for Luke to talk to a lawyer,” Robinson said. “He threatens a lawsuit, so how worried is his campaign that I’m running a campaign without $800,000?”
“Unlike Luke, I have a day job that isn’t campaigning. And, the most important thing is I can’t be bought,” he added.
During the 5th Congressional District candidates’ forum hosted at Louisiana Delta Community College in Monroe, Robinson also took an apparent shot at Letlow, in a subtle reference to Letlow’s past work as chief of staff for 5th District Congressman Ralph Abraham. Abraham decided not to seek re-election this year and instead endorsed Letlow’s candidacy. During the candidates’ forum, Letlow noted he was the only candidate endorsed by Abraham and other congressional delegates.
At Tuesday’s candidates’ forum, Robinson claimed he sought the congressional office because of his passion for public service.
“This isn’t a coronation,” Robinson said. “You don’t get to leave office and announce who will take your place.”
At the candidates’ forum, six of the nine candidates campaigning to succeed Abraham answered questions about their qualifications, their positions on defunding the police, reopening the economy and their evaluation of Trump’s presidency.
The candidates participating in the forum included Letlow; Robinson; Sandra “Candy” Christophe, a Democrat from Alexandria; Matt Hasty, a Republican from Pineville; Martin Lemelle Jr., a Democrat from Grambling; and Phillip Snowden, a Democrat from Monroe.
Candidates not present at the forum included Harris; Allen Guillory Sr., a Republican from Opelousas; and Jesse Lagarde, a Democrat from Amite.