Walter Pierce

Can ‘Cajun John Wayne’ win it all?

by Walter Pierce

The short answer: probably not.

Things are looking up for Clay Higgins. The colorful former St. Landry Parish lawman who parlayed viral fame in CrimeStoppers videos into a run for Congress, is a runoff away from earning the moniker “Congressman Cajun John Wayne.” Higgins ran second in a 12-candidate field, grabbing 26 percent of the vote (84,809 votes), just behind frontrunner Scott Angelle, the public service commissioner and former secretary of the state Department of Natural Resources, who claimed 29 percent of the vote (91,374).

Higgins bested a handful of more traditional Republican contenders with much more polished résumés including retired Army Lt. Col. Greg Ellison (8 percent/24,845 votes), recalcitrantly goateed businessman Gus Rantz (8 percent/25,640) and former ambassador and longtime GOP bureau-bot Grover Joseph Rees (1 percent/2,455).

But the bombastic Higgins, whose penchant for fire-and-brimstone language is rivaled only by his 24-hour self-promotion, benefited mightily by one thing in the primary: Donald Trump. Higgins hitched his wagon to the now president-elect, noting often on social media his support for Trump and cleaving closely to many of the same populist, anti-establishment messages that mobilized a gazillion working-class whites who are traditionally low-participation voters. But will those same voters who turned out in spades to elect Trump on Nov. 8 go to the polls for the Dec. 10 runoff? Some will, of course, but likely not in the numbers Higgins will need to beat fellow Republican Angelle, a seasoned politician with a well-oiled machine and deep connections. Much might depend on whether the GOP also-rans in the race throw their support behind Higgins.

Assuming he wins, Angelle could take a page from the playbook of his former boss, Bobby Jindal: keep a seat in Congress warm for two years then run for governor in 2019.