U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander is planning to endorse state Sen. Neil Riser's bid to fill the 5th congressional district seat that he is vacating next month.
Jamie Hanks, Alexander's press secretary, confirmed Thursday that he will soon back Riser's campaign. Alexander's resignation is effective Sept. 26. On Sept. 30, he's scheduled to start his new $130,000-a-year job as secretary of veterans affairs in Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration.
Hanks did not provide any further details of the congressman's plans.
The Advocate reports (http://bit.ly/13JlQNd) Jindal's chief political consultant, Timmy Teepell, confirms that both he and OnMessage, Inc., a political consulting firm, also will work with Riser, R-Columbia.
Such developments likely will add fuel to critics who've alleged that Alexander and Jindal unfairly tried to orchestrate the timeline to help elect Riser in the Oct. 19 special election.
Jindal, Alexander and Riser have denied that accusation, which has been lodged by several candidates.
Earlier this month, Alexander announced he would resign and then said he had accepted a job in Jindal's cabinet. Riser almost immediately stated his plans to run, launched a campaign website and received the endorsements of U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette; Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson; and John Fleming, R-Minden.
One day prior to Alexander's initial announcement, Riser submitted his statement of candidacy to the Federal Election Commission, according to FEC records. Riser has said he planned for a long time to run for the seat whenever Alexander opted to step down.
When congressional qualifying ended Wednesday, 14 candidates signed up despite the quick turnaround and several were critical of how things had unfolded, including Republican candidates such as state Rep. Jay Morris of Monroe and former congressman and state Public Service Commissioner Clyde Holloway, of Forest Hill.
"I feel like we tried to have an appointed congressman," Holloway said Wednesday of Riser.
Previously, U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., said he would stay out of the race, but suggested that things "didn't happen by accident."
"Obviously it's a very quick election, and it's obvious that didn't happen by accident," Vitter said when asked if he thought Jindal had a hand in the timing.
Kirby Goidel, a political analyst and director of the LSU Public Policy Research Lab, said the election is not "fixed" per se, "but it was set up so a particular candidate is advantaged."
The reality is such occurrences are pretty common in politics, Goidel said. "It's a pretty smart thing to do to maintain the seat," he said.
Also on the ballot are high-profile Democrats including state Reps. Robert Johnson, of Marksville and Marcus Hunter, of Monroe; and Monroe Mayor Jamie Mayo.
Other candidates include Fairbanks oil and gas landman Tom Gibbs; Lettsworth resident Peter Williams; Baton Rouge underwriter S.B.A. Zaitoon; Delhi resident Henry Herford Jr.; Calhoun resident Phillip "Blake" Weatherly; New Orleans real estate agent Eliot Barron; Monroe businessman Vance McAllister; and former state Rep. R. Weldon Russell III, of Amite.
Barron is with the Green Party. Herford and Zaitoon are Libertarians. McAllister and Weatherly are Republicans. Russell is a Democrat. Gibbs and Williams have no party affiliation.
Barron and Zaitoon do not live in the district, but that is not legally necessary.
Gibbs ran against Alexander, R-Quitman, three years ago. He drew 33,279 votes to Alexander's 122,030 votes.
The 5th District covers all or part of 24 parishes across northeast Louisiana, through much of central Louisiana and including all the areas that run along the Mississippi state line. It is one of the nation's poorest congressional districts.