Dec. 8, 2016 02:58 PM
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The two Republican candidates in the tight runoff for the Acadiana-based 3rd District seat, Scott Angelle and Clay Higgins, have accused each other of lying and disparaged each other's records.

Angelle, a member of the Public Service Commission and third-place finisher in last year's governor's race, entered the race as the presumed front-runner. He's been a political figure for nearly 30 years, first in St. Martin Parish and later in the administrations of former Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal.

But what was expected to be an easy waltz to Washington for Angelle has been upended by Higgins' upstart campaign in an election cycle favoring outsiders.

Higgins, a former St. Landry Parish sheriff's captain dubbed the "Cajun John Wayne," ran only 3 percentage points behind Angelle in the November primary, despite having little campaign organization and a fraction of Angelle's money.

It's been a blistering campaign since then.

Higgins, now a reserve deputy marshal in Lafayette, is a local celebrity because of his attention-grabbing Crime Stoppers videos with the sheriff's office, in which he mocked those suspected of crimes. He's running on his personality — and on a singular message, to drive out "the entrenched, machine-driven millionaire career politicians." He considers Angelle one of them.

"My campaign represents a real challenge to these people, working-class guy with no money, no machine, no experience," Higgins said. "There's no way we're supposed to be allowed into that elitist club of rulers, especially when we're facing one that's been established for so long."

He talks of reining in the "fourth branch of government," bureaucracies he says "devour the people's wealth and power." He describes in biblical terms a need "to save our country."

Angelle, who didn't agree to an interview, has pushed himself as a defender of oil and gas, one of the district's largest industries. He's described his lifetime in taxpayer-financed offices as valuable public service, not career politics. He's calling himself a "Washington outsider."

His campaign describes Angelle as "fighting for Louisiana his entire life" and says he wouldn't need "on-the-job training" like Higgins. Angelle's campaign notes that Higgins lives outside the congressional district and says Higgins "has been caught illegally using public resources to make money under the table for himself."

Higgins left the sheriff's office in a disagreement over the outsized rhetoric and concerns that Higgins was violating office policy with the mugs, T-shirts and other "Captain Higgins" items he sold. Lafayette media have reported allegations that Higgins threatened his first wife and hasn't paid child support. Angelle's campaign has circulated the claims.

Higgins says the allegations are lies, blaming an ugly divorce. To Angelle's criticisms, he says: "That's what millionaire career politicians do. They attack anybody that gets in their way."

A pro-Higgins PAC accused Angelle of supporting Hillary Clinton for president and using political offices to enrich his family. In an ad saying he voted for Donald Trump, Angelle says he's being hit "by the corrupt Washington establishment and their lies."