Dynamics of 6th district race are shaping up

Special to the Herald-Guide
June 20, 2014 at 8:58 am  | Mobile Reader | Pring this storyPrint 

By Jeremy Alford

While a reporter from New York magazine has been in Baton Rouge recently keeping former Gov. Edwin Edwards occupied, the other contenders in the 6th Congressional District have been free to ponder the angles behind state Rep. Lenar Whitney, R-Houma, entering the race.

The knee-jerk reaction from operatives and consultants was that she might peel votes off of the Republican candidates who have been working the bayou parishes around Terrebonne-Lafourche the longest. That means entrepreneur Paul Dietzel and Garret Graves, former chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. Both men are from Baton Rouge.

But unless Whitney, a national committeewoman for the Louisiana Republican Party, can raise an impressive amount of money quickly — sources tell LaPolitics she’s close to six figures — it’s doubtful she’ll get a second look.

Graves, in particular, is positioned to aggressively compete for money and votes in her backyard. Terrebonne Parish President Michel Claudet, House Natural Resources Chairman Gordon Dove of Houma and several members of the Bollinger family have all maxed out to his campaign. Chris Bollinger, president of Bollinger Shipyards, also serves on Graves’ steering committee.

In what speaks more to national influence, the Graves campaign recently received maximum donations from KochPAC, the political action committee of Koch Industries. One of the prevailing forces in conservative politics, KochPAC does not double down in races, but rather picks one candidate to support.

It’s notable for state Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who has made an issue of conserving water from the Southern Hills Aquifer, which is a source for Georgia-Pacific, a company owned by Koch Industries.

With Baker businessman and physical therapist Craig McCulloch, a former quarterback at Nicholls State University, also making a go of the southern end of the district, it’s a safe bet the region will get carved up thoroughly in the primary.

And while Claitor is expected to perform well in south Baton Rouge, the northern end of the district will be split up by the large field as well, with McCulloch having an edge in the Baker-Zachary-Central area.

That makes Livingston and Ascension parishes the possible battleground of the 6th Congressional District. Sources say Graves made an early push there after announcing, although it’s clear that most of the other contenders have recognized its value by now, too.

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