24 candidates crowd race for US Senate

By James Ronald Skains
Journal Correspondent

For the 24 candidates who have paid their filing fees for the vacant seat as United States Senator from Louisiana, the verdict on the value of their investment will be in on November 8. The two top candidates, no matter their party affiliations, will slug it out in the December 11 runoff to determine who will occupy the seat now held by David Vitter, who is not seeking reelection.

A number of the candidates were relatively unknown politically prior to the race. However none were considered political light weights at the start of the race back in August.

Rev. Peter Williams, who by alphabetical listing is at the end of the ballot, is a native of Kaplan located in the heart of the rice country in Southwest Louisiana. A resident of Lettsworth in Pointe Coupee Parish, Rev. Pete has a unique background, as a pastor in his area for more than 30 years, as well as being an agriculture and forestry businessman. Williams is a Master Logger, tree seedlings Nursery owner, a tree planting contractor, and leader in the Louisiana Black Farmers organization. He also has served as an agriculture business consultant and as an environmental contractor during the cleanup following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

We were so impressed with Williams' work in clearing trees from the inside of the London Street Canal in New Orleans that the Piney Woods Journal published an article in late 2005 about his work. The gist of that article about Williams, doing business as Resource One Nursery, was that he was completing his miles of canal work much faster than his competition, at half the cost. Rev. Williams states that his desire to be a member of the US Senate is so that he can become a peacemaker, and an achiever both in Louisiana and Washington, D.C. He has traveled throughout Louisiana during this campaign. Williams, age 59, is married to a native of Pointe Coupe whom he met while both were attending University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Bro Pete and wife Freda have 4 children.

Foster Campbell is an old-timer in Louisiana politics, currently serving as Chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission. If elected to the US Senate, Campbell would turn 70 years of age during his first week in office. Foster, a Democrat, has been on political ballots in his home parish of Bossier since the late 1970's. He served nearly 30 years in the Louisiana Senate where he became well entrenched with his seniority in Baton Rouge.

After he was left the Louisiana Senate due to term limits, Foster sought to extend and enhance his political career in a race for Governor that he lost.

One widely known incident in his life came during one of his unsuccessful races for US Congress. He was driving to Baton Rouge on I-49 before it was open to traffic. Campbell suddenly hit an area of I-49 that had not been completed; Campbell wrecked his vehicle and was severely injured.

For the last decade, Campbell has held the Louisiana Public Service Commission office representing most of north Louisiana. He is a Democrat, has been endorsed by Governor John Bel Edwards.

Another well-known statewide candidate in the 2016 US Senate Race is Louisiana State Treasurer John Kennedy. John has done a great job as Treasurer of Louisiana, but has consistently expressed a desire for a higher job in politics, although recently elected to his fifth term in office. Kennedy is a native and resident of Zachary in the northern part of East Baton Rouge Parish. Kennedy began his political career as an aide to high level officials in Louisiana government. John is running as a Republican.

US Congressman John Fleming, MD, a native of the Minden area, is relinquishing a safe seat as Congressman after four terms to run for US Senator. In a short interview with Congressman Fleming in Baton Rouge, I asked him what the two top issues in the Senate race were. His answer was; "Repeal Obamacare, and Repeal Obamacare!" In my follow-up question, I asked him "If Obamacare is repealed, what will happen to the nearly 400,000 Louisiana residents who have Obamacare?" The Congressman's answer: "They will just transition to some other health care plan." When asked, "And what health care plan would that be, Fleming's reply was, "I don't know, but I'm sure we will come up with something." I guess, Congressman Fleming could go in the political category of "I'm an aginner," i.e., "I'm Against .." Fleming, a doctor is running as a lifelong Republican. Fleming owns 36 Subway franchises and is UPS store site developer. A native of Meridian, Mississippi, and a graduate of Ole Miss Medical School, Fleming served more than five years in the Navy as a physician. He has served in Congress since January 3, 2009.

Another La Congressman in the race is Charles Boustany, MD, now representing La 3rd Congressional District, having been a member of the US Congress since 2005. Boustany also opposes Obamacare and sponsored H.R. 1173 bill which sought to repeal part of the Affordable Care Act, but the bill failed to pass the US Senate.

A Cardiologist by education and profession, Boustany represents himself as a retired physician. Congressman Boustany has a lot of political pedigrees being married to the niece of former Governor Edwin Edwards and is cousin to former US Senator Edward Kennedy's widow, Victoria Reggie of Crowley. According to his published biography, Boustany is listed as one of four Arab-Americans in Congress because his grandparents immigrated from Lebanon.

Joshua Pellerin, a native of Acadiana, is an oil executive and oil businessman entrepreneur. Pellerin is running as a Democrat in his first major political race and touts himself as an outsider.

On the Republican side, two newcomers are Charles Marsal and Donald Crawford, Jr.

Another former US Congressman in the 2016 Senate race is Joseph Coa, Republican of New Orleans. Coa served one term in Congress before he was ousted mostly by redistricting. Coa ran for La Attorney General in 2011 but lost.

Another candidate is former elected official in Louisiana, Troy Hebert, a former State Senator, and former five-year Commissioner of LA Alcohol & Tobacco commission. Hebert, known for his aggressive political style is running as a true Independent for US Senate. Hebert's five year term as Alcohol Tobacco Commissioner in the high profile job was controversial throughout his term in office.

The two Libertarian Party candidates for US Senator are LeRoy Gilliam and Thomas Clements.

Other candidates listed as unaffiliated are: Arden Wells, Gregory Taylor, Jr., Kaitlin Marone, William Lang, Jr., and Beryl Billiot.

Another fairly well-known candidate in the race is retired Air Force Colonel Rob Maness who is affiliated with the Tea Party, and is running as a Republican. Maness ran in the 2014 US Senate race that saw Bill Cassidy triumph over then US Senator Mary Landrieu.

A New Orleans Landrieu and relative of former Senator Mary Landrieu is six-foot-five Gary Landrieu, a Democrat. Two other candidates registered as Democrat are Vinny Mendoza and Derrick Edwards.

The name Fayard is familiar in political and business circles in south Louisiana. Caroline Fayard is an attorney who touts her work in getting money for victims of the Deep Water Horizon Gulf of Mexico disaster as a major accomplishment. Fayard also ran for US Congress in the 6th District of Louisiana that is centered around Baton Rouge. Her father is a well-known wealthy New Orleans businessman. Although, a former candidate for US Congress, from observation, Ms. Caroline does not seem to be a natural politician on the campaign trail, rather reserved and not pushing a specific agenda.

A registered Republican in the race, Abhay Patel is trying to make political history in becoming the first American of Indian (nation of India) descent to be elected US Senator in Louisiana.

Patel, a successful businessman, portrays himself as an outsider and has begun to run a few TV commercials.

I have purposely saved one of the the "best known" candidates for the last. Best known worldwide for his KKK and Neo-Nazi antics, David Duke did run a "too-close-for-comfort" race for US Senator against then US Senator Bennett Johnson.

Although Duke lost, he compiled a huge mailing list of supporters throughout Louisiana. In 1991, Duke became a house household name in Louisiana when he ran for Governor and participated in the infamous "LA-Run-Off-From-Hell" against Edwin Edwards. However, Duke's lasting impact on Louisiana politics has been his lengthy mailing list of supporters that was first bought for allegedly $150,000 by the then future two term Governor Mike Foster.

Apparently, Governor Foster then passed Duke's mailing list to his prot\'e9g\'e9 and then the "infamous Duke list" made it into the hands of a future US Senator. Although Duke is well-known in Louisiana for all the wrong reasons, and his support may not be what it was during his previous race for US Senator or Governor, Duke could still receive double digit numbers of votes on November 8.