President Joe Biden is trying to push through a $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure package and a $3.5 trillion social policy package, the largest expansion of social programs since the New Deal. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Republicans Luke Letlow and Lance Harris are trying to distinguish themselves from each other as they head into a runoff election for Louisiana’s 5th congressional district Dec. 5.
Letlow, 40, touts his experience working in politics and government for years. He served as outgoing Congressman Ralph Abraham’s chief of staff and has held other positions “behind the scenes” in politics.
“Experience, by far, is my advantage,” Letlow said. “My experience will allow me to get things done on day one.”
Harris, 59, said his work in the private sector is more valuable. He owns agricultural companies and a local gas station chain — among other things. Harris is also a state representative and the former chairman of the Louisiana House Republican Caucus, though he didn’t hold elected office until he was 50 years old.
“My experience as a business owner is relevant,” he said. “My opponent has done nothing but work in government, except for a short stint as a lobbyist.”
If elected, Letlow said his top priority would be expanding broadband access in the 5th Congressional District, a sprawling area encompassing 24 parishes. It includes Alexandria, Monroe,Opelousas, St. Francisville and Amite.
Letlow lives in rural Richland Parish and doesn’t have access to high-spend internet at his house. He said broadband is necessary so that students can take advantage of remote learning and for telemedicine, wherein doctors and nurses meet with patients over an internet connection. During the COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine and remote learning have both become even more important, he said.
Letlow said he also wants to change the way social security benefits are calculated for Louisiana residents who initially work in the public sector. He said public employees who move into the private sector are punished for not paying into social security during their initial public sector job. They don’t collect as much in social security benefits later in life. Letlow said those provisions should be adjusted so more Louisiana residents can receive higher social security benefits.
If elected, Harris would want to prioritize reducing the country’s deficit and preserving the country’s “free enterprise” and “free market” while a member of Congress. Like Letlow, Harris also said he would fight for an expansion of broadband in the district.
As a legislator, Harris — who lives in Alexandria — said his biggest accomplishment was sponsoring a law that makes it more difficult for the state to use one-time money — such as the sale of a building — to pay for ongoing government expenses. He’s also proud of passing Louisiana’s so-called “Blue Lives Matter” statute. The law extends the state’s “hate crime” protections to law enforcement officers and first responders.
Harris narrowly edged out Democrat Candy Christophe to earn the second spot in the runoff. He beat Christophe by 456 votes in Tuesday’s primary election. Letlow claimed the first spot by a large margin, earning twice as many votes as Harris.
Christophe said her campaign will spend Friday “verifying” election results, but she has not asked for an official recount. A recount might require Christophe’s campaign to pay thousands of dollars to local elected officials for the manpower and other costs of completing it.
It’s also unlikely that hundreds of ballots were counted incorrectly during the primary. Successful recounts are relatively rare, and usually involve a much smaller number of votes.
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