- Associated Press - Monday, December 7, 2015

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Republican U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana launched his campaign Monday for U.S. Senate, positioning himself as a contender willing to take on Washington’s GOP leaders.

The congressman - who has represented northwest Louisiana since 2009 and is seeking the Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter - says in a video posted to his campaign website that he believes “America is much better than the leadership we have in Washington.”

Fleming is a tea party favorite, and he describes himself as willing to challenge not only President Barack Obama, but Republicans in Washington who don’t follow “conservative principles.”

“As a passionate conservative, I can tell you with certainty that this president doesn’t share our Louisiana values,” Fleming says in the video. “But there is more blame to go around. We have too many in Washington who are all too willing to just go along with the status quo and not make any waves.”

A doctor, Fleming has been an outspoken critic of Obama’s health care overhaul, pledging to push repeal until he is successful.

Fleming becomes the first of many GOP contenders expected to seek the seat. U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, a Republican who represents southwest Louisiana, also has said he will announce his Senate campaign soon.

Other well-known Republicans eyeing the race are Treasurer John Kennedy; Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, who ran third in the governor’s race earlier this year; and Rob Maness, who ran unsuccessfully for Senate last year.

Vitter, a Republican, announced he wouldn’t run for a third term in 2016 after he was soundly defeated in Louisiana’s election for governor by Democrat John Bel Edwards.

The race became a referendum on Vitter’s character, and his 12 percentage point loss was deemed a stunning rebuke of the one-time political powerbroker that could have made it difficult for him to hold onto his Senate seat.

Democratic candidates have been slower to emerge for the race so far. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu has said he won’t run for the Senate seat.

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