Senate hopeful visits here

Published 6:43 am Saturday, August 13, 2016

U.S. Rep. John Fleming stopped by Bogalusa on Wednesday to have lunch with the Washington Parish Republican Women’s Club.

Fleming, a Republican, is giving up his seat in Congress for a shot at the U.S. Senate, and Fleming is one in a field of 24 candidates hopeful to replace Sen. David Vitter. Vitter is not running for another term.

In Louisiana, all candidates — Republican, Democrat and independent — appear on the ballot together in the general election. Nevertheless, Fleming said he’s not worried.

“It’s not as crowded as it seems,” Fleming said.

If none of the 24 candidates can pull out a majority then a runoff will be held between the top two vote getters.

The congressman explained that there are only five candidates — three Republicans and two Democrats — who have name recognition and enough of a donor base to maintain a viable campaign.

As a congressman, Fleming said he took pride in his work keeping Louisiana military bases open in the face of spending cuts.

“I’ve been able to not only protect our military bases but also enhance them,” he said.

Fleming added that, as a senator, he would like to work on securing funding for Louisiana roadways, ports and for dredging projects.

Waterway improvements in particular could help the state, Fleming said.

“It would really bring a lot of dollars to us,” he said.

Although he has been a congressman since 2008, Fleming describes himself as a Washington, D.C. outsider.

“Well, I am an outsider from the standpoint of not being part of the Washington establishment,” he said.

Fleming represents the 4th Congressional District in the western part of the state and he was elected along with a wave of anti-establishment Republican representatives who promised to change politics as usual.

“When I first ran in 2008, the party anointed one of my primary opponents because they felt I was too conservative for their taste,” he said.

Fleming said that same desire by the voters to support independent conservative candidates led to Donald Trump being the party’s nominee for president. However, Trump has proven a controversial pick and current polls show him losing badly. As a result, any Republican who wins the Senate race in Louisiana could have to work with a Democrat in the White House.

Fleming said he could work across the aisle, provided the other side doesn’t “support socialism.”

“The problem with bipartisanship today is, you have the Democratic party today, in Washington — not here locally — but the Democrats in Washington admire Chavez and Castro,” he said, referring to the former president of Venezuela and the current leadership in Cuba, which are both communist nations. “So you have many Democrats today in Washington who believe that the government can take full control of our lives … How you can be bipartisan with people who push that kind of agenda? I don’t know.”

In the meantime, Fleming said Congress did pass a bipartisan bill that would provide funding to fight against the mosquito-born Zika virus, but the bill stalled in the Senate due to Democratic objections.

The bill would have taken some of the funding from a fund that had been funding the fight against Ebola, but Fleming said the Democrats wanted to keep the funding in place and use it for a slush fund. Although Republicans have control of the Senate and the House, Fleming pointed out that the GOP does not have a supermajority in the Senate and therefore can’t override a filibuster.

“Zika funding could pass tomorrow if the Democrats won’t filibuster,” he said.

The election is Tuesday, Nov. 8.