- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - Louisiana’s fall ballot is going to be a long one, as competitors trying to reach Washington crammed the races for open U.S. House and Senate seats during the three-day qualifying period that ended Friday.

The Senate race was the most popular, drawing 24 candidates to replace Republican incumbent David Vitter, who isn’t running for re-election. The Secretary of State’s Office said the Senate candidate list has more people on it than any congressional race in its database, which stretches back to 1982.

Among the contenders are two congressmen, the state treasurer, lawyers, businessmen and white supremacist David Duke, who made a surprise entrance into the race on the last day of the qualifying period.

After signing his paperwork and paying the registration fee, Duke - a Republican and convicted felon who last served in elected office as a state lawmaker in 1994 - said: “I believe my time has come.”

Other GOP contenders include U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, former U.S. Rep. Joseph Cao, U.S. Rep. John Fleming, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness and state Treasurer John Kennedy. Democrats include New Orleans lawyer Caroline Fayard, Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell and Lafayette oil and gas businessman Josh Pellerin. Former state Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner Troy Hebert is running without a party affiliation.

Maness, the third-place finisher in the 2014 competition, signed up Friday a few hours before Duke. Maness touted his 32 years of military experience, calling himself the only “warrior” in the race and saying that’s what America needs.

“We’re weaker than we’ve ever been. We’re not leading. And the world’s on fire,” he said.

Maness tried to register for the ballot as “Colonel Rob,” but was denied. Elections officials said the nickname isn’t allowed under Louisiana law, and the Maness campaign left open the possibility of a lawsuit.

The election is Nov. 8, with all candidates, regardless of party, running against each other.

All four incumbent congressmen seeking re-election - Republicans Ralph Abraham, Garret Graves and Steve Scalise; and Democrat Cedric Ricmond - will face opposition on the ballot. Richmond drew one of the more high-profile opponents, when Baton Rouge mayor Kip Holden, also a Democrat, registered for the race.

Because Boustany and Fleming are running for the Senate, candidates packed the ballot for their open House seats.

The 3rd District seat representing southwest Louisiana, currently represented by Boustany, has 12 candidates.

The only one to sign up Friday was former sheriff’s Capt. Clay Higgins, a Republican dubbed the “Cajun John Wayne” because of his well-known Crime Stoppers videos. Higgins said he’s running to give police officers “a direct voice in Congress,” and he insisted he wasn’t a politician, but a “patriot.”

“I’ll carry a unique perspective to the halls of power in Washington, D.C.,” he said.

The 3rd District front-runner is Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, a Republican who ran third in last year’s governor’s race and has been in politics for nearly 30 years.

Other GOP candidates include oil and gas businessman Greg Ellison; former state Rep. Brett Geymann; health care businessman Gus Rantz; and Grover Joseph Rees, a former U.S. ambassador to East Timor who worked as a congressional staffer for 10 years. Democrats include Larry Rader, owner of an insurance agency.

The 4th District covering northwest Louisiana, currently represented by Fleming, attracted eight contenders.

Republicans include Dr. Trey Baucum; former state Sen. Elbert Guillory; Oliver Jenkins, an oil and gas businessman and member of the Shreveport City Council; and state Rep. Mike Johnson. Marshall Jones, a Shreveport lawyer, is the only Democrat in the race.

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Follow Melinda Deslatte on Twitter at https://twitter.com/melindadeslatte


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