Sam Hanna Jr.

Dr. Ralph Abraham of Mangham is no political novice.

It’s true he’s never been a candidate for public office, and you can rest assured he’s being honest when he says he has no desire to be a politician. But if Abraham sticks to his guns and enters this fall’s 5th District congressional race, it will mark the first time he’s ever been a candidate for public office. However, it won’t mark the first time he’s directly exposed himself to the political process.

Some 18 years ago when another physician was running for Congress in the 5th District, Abraham was in the thick of it, so to speak, staunchly supporting his candidate, who won the race in a landslide against a veteran state lawmaker. The winning candidate was Dr. John Cooksey, who came out of nowhere, ran as a “citizen candidate” and outdistanced then-state Rep. Francis Thompson with 58 percent of the vote.

In talking to Abraham last week, he sounded just like Cooksey did nearly two decades ago when yours truly was of the opinion early on that the good doctor didn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell of getting elected in a field of candidates that included former Congressman Clyde Holloway, then-Ouachita Parish Police Juror Ben Marshall, Dr. Michael Caire of West Monroe and Thompson, who remains the “Santa Claus” of the northeastern Louisiana legislative delegation.

The political landscape in the 5th District is a bit different today than it was in the mid-1990s. Some would say for the worse. I tend to agree.

Abraham, though, appears to be pursuing a message that’s similar to the one Cooksey preached back then, particularly that insane proposition called term limits.

Obviously, I believe term limits are terrible. The lack of institutional knowledge in the Louisiana Legislature is a prime example of why term limits don’t work.

But Abraham apparently thinks term limits are necessary to restore honesty and integrity in politics, assuming that’s even remotely possible.

Last week when he announced his intention to enter the 5th District race, Abraham pledged to limit himself to just three terms in the House if he’s elected this fall. Cooksey did the same thing when he first ran for the House in ‘96, and when he bowed out of the House in the 2002 election cycle to oppose U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, two parallel events occurred at the same time — voters statewide missed out on an opportunity elect a good man to the Senate while 5th District voters lost a representative who didn’t cowtow to the so-called elite.

To put it bluntly, Abraham should rethink his term-limit pledge.

Regardless, Abraham entered what will become a crowded field of candidates who will vie to succeed Congressman Vance McAllister. That’s assuming, of course, that McAllister’s word actually means something. And that’s assuming a lot, especially in light of the blabbering and whining McAllister did in a television interview Monday on the NBC affiliate in Monroe/West Monroe. Apparently McAllister agreed to an “exclusive” interview with KTVE, which will air bit by bit all week.

Judging by McAllister’s performance Monday night, he will renege on his decision not to seek re-election in light of being exposed for engaging in an extramarital affair with his best friend’s wife, who happened to be a member of McAllister’s congressional staff.

Though Abraham and Cooksey have much in common, it’s reasonable to suggest Abraham will encounter some difficulty in convincing voters that he’s the fresh face the 5th District needs. Those obstacles didn’t exist in 1996. They exist today because scores of voters most likely will be leery of another “fresh face” who says what they want to hear.

After all, we elected one of those to Congress last fall. And we know how that turned out.

Yet, the 5th District race will continue to evolve and it won’t take shape until late summer. But already the field includes Monroe businessman Harris Brown, former Grant Parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley and Abraham, of Richland Parish.

There’s room for more, but if any candidates are undecided about the race, they need to make a move soon or run the risk of the voters settling on a horse before the race gets under way in earnest.

Time is of the essence.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached

by phone at 318-805-8158

or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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