Holden Hoggatt picks up main endorsements in Home race towards Clay Higgins | Native Elections
Three lions of Acadiana politics on Monday are throwing their support behind the opponent of US Rep. Clay Higgins, possibly changing the tenor of the state’s only competitive Nov. 8 congressional race.
John Breaux, Charles Boustany and Chris Johns, who together represented Acadiana in the US House of Representatives for nearly four decades, endorsed newcomer Holden Hoggatt, a Lafayette Republican prosecutor, over Higgins, the Lafayette Republican who has been in Congress since 2017.
The three former congressmen have called a 10 am Monday news conference in Lafayette to explain the reasoning behind their endorsement. Their comments Saturday underscored the themes challengers are making against Higgins, who is known for his incendiary right-wing videos and commentary.
“During my time in Congress, I saw who got the work done for their constituents. I know that you can lead as a conservative, and do it well, only when you are focused on service, not self-promotion,” said Boustany, the Lafayette Republican who represented Acadiana in Congress from 2006 through 2016. “We need selfless leadership in Congress again.”
Johns, who was the area’s representative as a Crowley Democrat from 1997 to 2005, added: “As a former chairman of the Blue Dogs in Congress, I worked with Republicans, Democrats and whoever we had to so we could help our constituents. In Congress, you represent the people, not a single party and not a single cause.”
A former supporter of Higgins, Hoggatt has stressed during the campaign that a more businesslike approach would translate to more success for Acadiana. Boustany, Breaux and Johns demonstrated that outcome during their time in the US House of Representatives, he said.
“Their impact has transcended partisanship because our families and businesses mattered more to them than anything else,” Hoggatt said. “They funded major infrastructure projects, supported our oil and gas production, our farmers and our small businesses.”
Some members of the Lafayette business community say privately they are uncomfortable with Higgins’ right-wing antics and extremist associations, though they like that he’s increased national awareness of the region. Some officials in Lake Charles criticize what they see as Higgins’ inability to bring hurricane recovery dollars to the region, though his office has worked to do so.
Veteran political strategist Roy Fletcher, of Baton Rouge, said endorsements rarely translate into votes.
“But it does deliver attention. It opens the conversation,” Fletcher said. “This gives Hoggatt a chance to make his case.”
On the other hand, the endorsements could also help Higgins, Fletcher said. The three-term incumbent repeatedly says he’s no politician and has positioned himself as an everyday person fighting the old, established politicos like Breaux, Johns and Boustany.
Higgins is endorsed by former President Donald Trump, the Republican Party of Louisiana, CPAC and some of his congressional colleagues.
A former car salesman, Higgins switched careers to law enforcement and eventually became the St. Landry Parish sheriff’s deputy in charge of producing and delivering the “Crime Stoppers” segment aired on local newscasts. Unlike most productions, Higgins presented as a tough-talking cop who brandished weapons and threatened by name the suspects being sought, and his segments attracted international attention.
Relying on social media and videos, Higgins in 2016 trounced odds-on favorite Public Service Commission Chair Scott Angelle, who had been lieutenant governor and a cabinet secretary for years, in the congressional race.
Since then, Higgins has attracted attention with his extreme comments and videos, as well as his associations with fringe militia groups. He said, for instance, to protesters that he would “drop 10 of you where you stand.” He likened retired US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens to a socialist. He was widely criticized for a five-minute political video from Auschwitz concentration camp, part of which was taken from inside one of the gas chambers.
But Higgins also articulates the anti-vaccination, anti-abortion and pro-gun stances favored by a majority of voters in one of Louisiana’s most conservative regions. He has twice been reelected in the primary by scoring overwhelming majorities.
He is in the running to chair the House Committee on Homeland Security, if reelected.
Though expected to win by the national political handicappers, such as Charles Cook and Larry Sabato, Higgins is facing a competitive campaign. If this time Higgins fails to win more than half the ballots cast, he will end up in a Dec. 10 run off.
The other five incumbents in the Louisiana delegation to Congress are facing largely unknown and unfinanced opponents in their reelection efforts.
In addition to Hoggatt, Higgins faces six opponents on the Nov. 8 ballot: Lessie Olivia Leblanc, D-Baton Rouge; Tia LeBrun, D-Lafayette; Guy McLendon, L-Sulphur; Thomas “Lane” Payne Jr., R-Perry; Jacob “Jake” Shaheen, R-Lake Charles; and Gloria R. Wiggins, no party-Franklin.
Hoggatt has emerged as Higgins’ major competitor, having aired commercials that mock Higgins’ “Crime Stoppers” segments that sarcastically bring up the incumbent’s sometimes-fractious relationships with his ex-wives. Higgins was ordered to stay clear of one wife after holding a gun to her head, and he still owes more than $140,000 in child support to another former wife.
Breaux, D-Crowley, entered the House of Representatives in 1972, replacing Edwin W. Edwards. After seven terms, Breaux became a US senator in 1987. He was succeeded in the US House by Republican Jimmy Hayes, of Lafayette, for a decade. Hayes retired in 1997 after placing fifth in the US Senate race.
Johns took Hayes’ place on Capitol Hill until he lost a bid for the US Senate in 2004. Boustany was elected and took office in 2005. He represented Acadiana for another dozen years.
In 2012, after his seat was merged with the 3rd Congressional District, Boustany defeated Jeff Landry to represent people living, roughly, from the Atchafalaya swamp to the Sabine River around Interstate 10 to the coast.
Higgins won the seat in 2016 after Boustany ran unsuccessfully for the US Senate.
The 10 am Monday news conference is at Homewood Suites, 201 Kaliste Saloom Road, Lafayette.
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