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Hanna: Incumbents get free ride

In spite of all the blabbering about incumbent lawmakers certain to face opposition in this fall’s elections, few of them in northeastern Louisiana have drawn an opponent thus far.

And if any aspiring politician desires to get in the game, they better get busy. Candidate qualifying is in two weeks.

The list of the “unopposed” members of the House of Representatives includes Andy Anders of Clayton, Bubba Chaney of Rayville, Katrina Jackson and Jay Morris of Monroe, Frank Hoffmann of West Monroe, Rob Shadoin of Ruston and Terry Brown of Colfax.

Over in the Senate, Neil Riser of Columbia and Francis Thompson of Delhi don’t have an announced opponent either.

Rep. Jim Fannin of Jonesboro is giving up his House seat to run for the Senate. He’s hoping to succeed Sen. Bob Kostelka of Monroe. Kostelka can’t seek re-election because of term limits. Fannin has one announced opponent. He’s Stewart Cathey Jr. of Monroe.

Jack McFarland, who’s in the timber business, is running for Fannin’s House seat. McFarland, of Winnfield, is running unopposed at this time.

State Rep. Marcus Hunter of Monroe is expected to face the same opponent he defeated by three votes four years ago when he was first elected to the House. That would be Billye Burns, a retired educator.

Meanwhile, Rep. Steve Pylant of Winnsboro will meet Cleve Womack of Catahoula Parish. Pylant turned back Womack in 2011 when Pylant was elected to succeed Noble Ellington. A former sheriff, Pylant reportedly toyed with not seeking re-election but had a change of heart after the legislative session concluded in late spring.

SAM HANNAThe only big news on the legislative front in northeastern Louisiana thus far in this election cycle concerns former Congressman Vance McAllister. You may remember him.

McAllister declared last week that he will oppose Sen. Mike Walsworth of West Monroe. Walsworth is vying for a third and final term representing a far-flung district that stretches from West Carroll Parish to Claiborne Parish, taking in parts of Ouachita and Lincoln along the way.

Only McAllister knows for sure why he would expose himself and his family to any more ridicule in light of the scandal that drove him from office last fall. Perhaps getting caught fiddling around with a member of his staff who happened to be married to one of his good friends isn’t such a big deal these days.

I suspect the rather conservative voters in Walsworth’s Senate district believe otherwise. Maybe not.

Unless he flubs it up, Walsworth should be easily re-elected. He’s widely popular, and he votes right, meaning he’s a conservative on social issues while acknowledging his rural district can’t prosper without a little help from Baton Rouge.

Stranger things have occurred in politics, though, such as McAllister’s election to the U.S. House of Representatives in the fist place. In other words, lightning has been known strike twice in the same locale.

While Walsworth will be busy beating back falsehoods and any and every other rumor the McAllister camp can think of to spread, it would appear our friend Morris, the House member from north Monroe, can breathe a sigh of relief.

Not exactly known for his diplomacy through no fault of his own other than simply being more intelligent than your average voter, Morris managed to anger the state’s largest business lobby and others, particularly in the legislative session that concluded earlier this year.

What did Morris do that was so bad? He spoke his mind and called the business community on the carpet for demanding that tax breaks for business and industry remain untouched while the Legislature faced a budgetary crisis for the ages.

It was enough of an insult to the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry that LABI went shopping for a candidate to run against Morris. There haven’t been any takers.

At least there weren’t any earlier this week.

If any would-be candidate is still contemplating qualifying to oppose an incumbent member of the Legislature, here’s a bit of advice for you: Don’t waste your money on the qualifying fee.

Running for public office is a demanding endeavor, state House and Senate races included. You should have been getting organized at least a year ago, and unless you have the personal wealth to write a check to finance your campaign, you should have been raising money for at least a year as well.

Then there’s the scrutiny. Every aspect of your life and your spouse’s life and that of your children, your parents, your siblings and anyone else you care for will be put under a microscope. Every flaw, every shortcoming, every missed step along the way will be exposed. Imagine the embarrassment.

And save the sympathy. That’s for losers.

In the spirit of Ricky Bobby of Talladega Nights fame, if you’re not first, you’re last.

Sam Hanna is a state political writer.

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