The road to Congress was not an easy one for Republican 4th District U.S. Rep. John Fleming of Minden. But he has come a long way since he was first elected to Congress in 2008.
A little history here. Fleming finished first in the Republican primary in 2008 with 35.14% of the vote. Coming in second was Chris Gorman with 34.10%, and Jeff Thompson finished third with 30.76%.
In the runoff, Fleming defeated Gorman, getting 55.56% percent of the vote to Gorman’s 44.44%.
Then Fleming had to run in the general election against Democrat Paul Carmouche and two other candidates. He squeaked out a victory, getting 48.07% of the vote. Carmouche had 47.69%, Independent candidate Chester Kelley had 3.51% and Gerald Bowen Jr. had 0.73%. Only a plurality was needed to win.
To cross the finish line as the victor, Fleming, a physician and businessman, ponied up $975,000 of his own money, leaving him with a substantial debt.
Political analysts believe that if the election had not been postponed because of Hurricane Gustav, which hit the Louisiana coast on September 1, Carmouche likely would have won the election.
The postponement caused the 4th District race to be held on December 6 rather than November 4 when Democrat Barack Obama was on the ballot.
Fast forward to 2013. In the latest campaign finance report, which goes through June 30, furnished to the Federal Election Commission, Fleming has $714,937 cash on hand.
He is gradually paying himself back, which he can do, and reports a current debt of $228,735. Once elected, it is easy to raise money. Interestingly, however, only 17% of Fleming’s contributions come from Political Action Committees (PACs), which is far below average for members of Congress.
Gorman, for example, spent $1.8 million of his own money in the primary in a losing cause. Therefore, he had no way to recoup his money.
In 2010 (U.S. House members serve two-year terms) when Louisiana went back to the Open Primary system, Fleming won in the primary with 62% of the vote. Democrat David Melville finished with 33% and No Party Artis Cash had 5%.
In 2012, Fleming defeated Randall Lord, a Libertarian, garnering 75% of the vote.
The Louisiana Democratic Party would like to find a viable candidate to challenge Fleming in 2014 because of his total support of the national Republican Party in Congress.
Democrats describe his philosophy as “far-right,” claiming he is out-of-touch with a large number of his constituents. No Democratic candidate has surfaced.
The parishes of the 4th District include all or part of Allen, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Claiborne, DeSoto, Grant, Natchitoches, Red River, Sabine, Vernon, Webster, and Winn.
There are 473,235 registered voters in the 4th District. Of that total, 297,532 (63%) are white, 157,637 (33%) are black, and 18,066 (4%) are other races. By party affiliation, 227,091 (48%) are Democrats, 135,500 (29%) are Republicans, and 110,644 (23%) are Other Parties.
Since being elected to Congress in 2008, Fleming has had total contributions of $5.3 million, of which 19% came from PACs. He has spent a total of $4.2 million.
Ever wonder why?
Do you ever wonder why members of Congress are always re-elected, even when their job approval rating is at an all-time low of 15% or lower?
The answer is simple: Money. It is amazing the amount of money that members of Congress can raise from special interest groups and political action committees (PACs).
Once inside the Washington Beltway, members of Congress are courted, wined and dined, and treated like members of a Royal family. The have their own police force, own bank, own post office, own finance office, own expense account, own gym…the list goes on and on.
So, let’s take a look at Louisiana’s Congressional delegation and see just how much money they have acquired. Remember that U.S. House elections take place in 2014, so they are not yet in full fund-raising mode.
*U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise, R-District 1, was first elected to the U.S. House in 2008. As of June 30, the latest reporting period, he has $765,911 cash on hand in his campaign fund. Since being elected, Scalise has raised $5.3 million, of which 19% came from PACs.
*U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-District 2, was first elected in 2010. As of June 30, he had $235,839 cash on hand. Since being elected, he has raised $2.9 million, of which 44% came from PACs.
*U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-District 3, was first elected in 2004. As of June 30, he had $331,264 cash on hand. Since being elected, he has raised $12.6 million, of which 46% came from PACs.
*U.S. Rep. Rodney Alexander, R-5th District, was first elected in 2002. As of June 30, he had $222,650 cash on hand. Since being elected, he has raised $7.3 million, of which 41% came from PACs.
U.S. Reps. John Fleming, R-District 4, was profiled above, and Bill Cassidy, R-District 6, was profiled last week since he is running for the Senate.
Louisiana’s two U.S. Senators…
*U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, Democrat, was first elected to the U.S. Senate in 1996. As of June 30, she had $5.1 million cash on hand. Since being elected, she has raised $30.5 million, of which 31% came from PACs. She is up for re-election in 2014.
*U.S. Sen. David Vitter, Republican, was first elected in 2004. As of June 30, he had $970,921 cash on hand. Since being elected, he has raised $25.2 million, of which 20% came from PACs. He is up for re-election in 2016.
…And the presidential race
The 2012 presidential race between incumbent Democratic President Barack Obama and Republican candidate Mitt Romney set all-time spending records with both campaigns surpassing $1 billion.
Here is a look at their fundraising and expenditures:
President Obama – He raised $725.7 million from individual contributions and spent $683.5 million. The National Democratic Party spent $292.3 million on his campaign, and outside PACs spent $131.2 million.
Total campaign expenditures: $1,107,029,174.
Candidate Romney – He raised $446.1 million from individual contributions and spent $443.3 million. The National Republican Party spent $386.2 million on his campaign, and outside PACs spent $418.6 million.
Total campaign expenditures: $1,238,072,571.
Lou Gehrig Burnett is a seasoned veteran of national and local politics. He publishes Fax-Net Update, a weekly political newsletter.