Louisiana’s open seats in Congress drawing crowded fields of candidates

By David Jacobs | The Center Square

 Louisiana’s two open seats in Congress have drawn crowded fields of contenders through the first two days of qualifying.

The highest-profile candidate to qualify Thursday was Republican Julia Letlow, who will compete in the 5th Congressional District. She is the widow of Luke Letlow, who won the seat in December but died following a COVID-19 diagnosis days before taking office. Julia Letlow works in marketing and communications at UL-Monroe.

Errol Victor Sr., a Republican from Slidell, also signed up on Thursday to run for the 5th District seat.

Sandra Christophe, a Democrat who in November came within a few hundred votes of making the December runoff against Letlow, signed up Wednesday.

Louisiana does not hold party primaries. Instead, every candidate runs on the same ballot in the first round, and if no one gets more than half of the votes, the top two advance to a runoff.

The other candidates to qualify for the 5th District race are all Republicans: Chad Conerly of Kentwood, Allen Guillory of Lawtell, Horace Melton III of Shreveport, and Sancha Smith of Opelousas. Republican state Rep. Lance Harris, who lost in the runoff to Letlow, had not signed up to try again as of Thursday.

The largely rural 5th District includes much of northeast and central Louisiana.

A dozen candidates on Thursday had applied to run in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes New Orleans and stretches into Baton Rouge. The seat opened up when Democrat Cedric Richmond left Congress to join President Joe Biden’s administration.

The candidates who signed up on Thursday are Republican Chelsea Ardoin of New Orleans, independent Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste of New Orleans, Republican Claston Bernard of Gonzales, Democrat J. Christopher Johnson of Gretna, Democrat Lloyd M. Kelly of New Orleans, Republican Greg Lirette of Walnut, Calif., and Democrat Desiree Ontiveros of New Orleans.

The likely frontrunners in the 2nd District are Democratic state senators Karen Carter Peterson and Troy Carter. Democrat Gary Chambers, a Baton Rouge activist who ran unsuccessfully for the state senate in 2019, Libertarian public school principal Mindy McConnel of New Orleans, and New Orleans Democrat Jenette M. Porter all qualified Wednesday.

Qualifying continues Thursday and Friday. Primary elections will be held March 20 with runoffs if necessary April 24.