Politics

House GOP tries to defuse its Louisiana primary problem

Republicans are openly trying to convince Rep. Garret Graves not to challenge his Louisiana GOP colleagues, fearing another ugly member-on-member fight in a state packed with House leaders.

Graves has kept his options open, and he’s facing a difficult choice. He can either run in his radically redrawn district, which now favors President Joe Biden by 20 points, or run against one of his fellow incumbent House Republicans.

The most likely match up is Graves challenging Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.), a contest that could get personally nasty, since Graves has had a close working relationship with Letlow.

His colleagues argue he still has a chance to win in his current district, and are openly hoping Graves doesn’t cause trouble by crashing another seat — particularly not in a state that counts Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise in the delegation. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said “of course” GOP leadership is nervous about another member-on-member primary race.

“I am prayerful that Garret, my friend, will decide to continue serving Congress as he is now – as a congressman of the sixth district. And if he runs in that district — in his own district — he’ll find a tremendous amount of help from me and from other Republicans in the state,” Higgins said in a brief interview. “The party apparatus will rally around him and support him. Whereas if he determines to run against a colleague, and I could be one of those, he’ll find that to be a very rocky path.”

Higgins acknowledged Graves’ “difficult position” but argued that it is “very intellectually unsound to just presume that Garret Graves as the incumbent would not win in his own district just because it’s been technically drawn to be a Black-majority district.” The Louisiana Legislature redrew the state’s lines last year, after a federal court ruled the old lines violated the Voting Rights Act.

If Graves did run in his own district, his likely Democratic opponent would be Cleo Fields, a Black state senator and former House member. Higgins said the matchup could play to Graves’ advantage, since he can lean on the power of incumbency, including name recognition and cash reserves. He argued Fields could have trouble, despite the high Democratic favorability, since he’s been out of the House campaign game since the 1990s.

In reality, it would be a tough slog for Graves. To that end, he still isn’t tipping his hand on his decision. When asked about the timeline for his decision, Graves only replied: “soon.” Louisiana candidates have to file by July 19.

“I’m not going to talk about that yet,” Graves said on Tuesday.

Graves, who has represented his seat since 2015, again vowed in a Friday statement to run “in a district anchored in the Capital Region” of Baton Rouge. He added that he was looking for the best fit to “represent the interests and priorities of the people of Louisiana for the next two years until a reasonable map is restored.”

Meanwhile, the House GOP’s top four leaders have made their feelings about a potential Graves-Letlow matchup clear. They all endorsed Letlow this week, and former President Donald Trump did earlier this year. Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry (R), who’s long had a tense relationship with Graves, also endorsed Letlow for reelection this week.

Some of those same leaders have also endorsed Graves, but in his current district.

Letlow declined to comment on Graves’ decision.

Senior Louisiana Republicans lamented Graves’ position after the Supreme Court allowed a redrawn map to stand last week, all but ceding his old seat to a Democrat. But they were wary of offering the long-time ally of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and once-rumored gubernatorial candidate advice on how to address his current plight.

“Believe me, Garret’s capable of making his own decisions,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who once represented Graves’ district. “I don’t have advice to give. Somebody was gonna end up perceiving themselves as receiving a raw deal, right?”

“Garret doesn’t need my advice,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. “That’s a personal decision he’s got to make himself.”

Graves does have another option, if he’s open to a district that’s adjacent to the Baton Rouge area: He could opt to run against Scalise. The two have long had a frosty relationship.

Republicans are openly trying to convince Rep. Garret Graves not to challenge his Louisiana GOP colleagues, fearing another ugly member-on-member fight in a state packed with House leaders.
Graves has kept his options open, and he’s facing a difficult choice. He can either run in his radically redrawn district, which now favors President Joe Biden by 20 points, or run against one of his fellow incumbent House Republicans.
The most likely match up is Graves challenging Rep. Julia Letlow (R-La.), a contest that could get personally nasty, since Graves has had a close working relationship with Letlow.
His colleagues argue he still has a chance to win in his current district, and are openly hoping Graves doesn’t cause trouble by crashing another seat — particularly not in a state that counts Speaker Mike Johnson and Majority Leader Steve Scalise in the delegation. Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said “of course” GOP leadership is nervous about another member-on-member primary race.
“I am prayerful that Garret, my friend, will decide to continue serving Congress as he is now – as a congressman of the sixth district. And if he runs in that district — in his own district — he’ll find a tremendous amount of help from me and from other Republicans in the state,” Higgins said in a brief interview. “The party apparatus will rally around him and support him. Whereas if he determines to run against a colleague, and I could be one of those, he’ll find that to be a very rocky path.”
Higgins acknowledged Graves’ “difficult position” but argued that it is “very intellectually unsound to just presume that Garret Graves as the incumbent would not win in his own district just because it’s been technically drawn to be a Black-majority district.” The Louisiana Legislature redrew the state’s lines last year, after a federal court ruled the old lines violated the Voting Rights Act.
If Graves did run in his own district, his likely Democratic opponent would be Cleo Fields, a Black state senator and former House member. Higgins said the matchup could play to Graves’ advantage, since he can lean on the power of incumbency, including name recognition and cash reserves. He argued Fields could have trouble, despite the high Democratic favorability, since he’s been out of the House campaign game since the 1990s.
In reality, it would be a tough slog for Graves. To that end, he still isn’t tipping his hand on his decision. When asked about the timeline for his decision, Graves only replied: “soon.” Louisiana candidates have to file by July 19.
“I’m not going to talk about that yet,” Graves said on Tuesday.
Graves, who has represented his seat since 2015, again vowed in a Friday statement to run “in a district anchored in the Capital Region” of Baton Rouge. He added that he was looking for the best fit to “represent the interests and priorities of the people of Louisiana for the next two years until a reasonable map is restored.”
Meanwhile, the House GOP’s top four leaders have made their feelings about a potential Graves-Letlow matchup clear. They all endorsed Letlow this week, and former President Donald Trump did earlier this year. Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry (R), who’s long had a tense relationship with Graves, also endorsed Letlow for reelection this week.
Some of those same leaders have also endorsed Graves, but in his current district.
Letlow declined to comment on Graves’ decision.
Senior Louisiana Republicans lamented Graves’ position after the Supreme Court allowed a redrawn map to stand last week, all but ceding his old seat to a Democrat. But they were wary of offering the long-time ally of former Speaker Kevin McCarthy and once-rumored gubernatorial candidate advice on how to address his current plight.
“Believe me, Garret’s capable of making his own decisions,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), who once represented Graves’ district. “I don’t have advice to give. Somebody was gonna end up perceiving themselves as receiving a raw deal, right?”
“Garret doesn’t need my advice,” Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) said. “That’s a personal decision he’s got to make himself.”
Graves does have another option, if he’s open to a district that’s adjacent to the Baton Rouge area: He could opt to run against Scalise. The two have long had a frosty relationship.  

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