Rep. John Fleming (R)
Louisiana 4th District
Northwestern Louisiana, south of Arkansas and just east of Texas, is part of the Deep South. The overwhelming majority of people here are Protestants, not Catholics, and they are often tradition-minded, with names that are English or Scottish, not French. The tone is set not by wide-open New Orleans—which was not easily accessible by interstate until 1996, when the last chunk of I-49 was completed—but by the smaller Shreveport, which could be just another East Texas oil-patch town, albeit one that has its own, comparatively sedate, Mardi Gras. The countryside is agricultural, though there are some vestiges of large riverfront plantations. Roots go back here a long way. Natchitoches is the oldest town in Louisiana, founded by Louis Antoine Juchereay de St. Denis in 1714. Shreveport was founded in the 1830s, when Capt. Henry Miller Shreve of the Army Corps of Engineers dispatched a young deputy named Robert E. Lee to break up a 100-mile blockade of logs in the Red River, moving the region’s epicenter upriver to a new town, which was then named for the captain. Oil provided the basis for much of the economic growth of the 20th century, but natural gas has taken off in the 21st century, helping to sustain the region during the recession. Gas was discovered in 1870, and the nation’s first gas pipeline was built from Caddo Field to Shreveport in 1908. However, it wasn’t economical to drill until gas prices zoomed upward in 2000. The dark spot for the local economy is the General Motors assembly plant in Shreveport, which manufactures Hummers and which had big job cutbacks in 2008. There are defense installations nearby, notably Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, one of the nation’s largest airfields, where George W. Bush landed on Sept. 11, 2001, and spoke briefly to the nation. Politically, northern Louisiana voters, for more than 100 years, have been voting against cosmopolitan New Orleans and the Catholic Cajun south, sometimes for rip-roaring populists and more often recently for market-oriented Republicans.
2008 Presidential Vote
|Cook Partisan Voting Index|
The 4th Congressional District of Louisiana consists of the northwest corner of the state. More than half of the votes here are cast in Caddo and suburban Bossier parishes in the far corner around Shreveport, with the rest scattered around rural areas, like picturesque Natchitoches and strip-highway towns like Leesville near Fort Polk. This area seemed to be trending Republican in the 1980s, but in the middle 1990s, it went the other way. Both Bill Clinton and Sen. Mary Landrieu carried the district in 1996, a critical factor in Landrieu’s narrow 5,788-vote statewide victory that year. In 2000, George W. Bush carried the area by a comfortable 55%, but it voted for Landrieu again in the close 2002 Senate race and for Democratic Gov. Kathleen Blanco in 2003 over Republican Bobby Jindal. In 2004, the district gave Bush 59% of the vote. John McCain won the district easily, with over 70% of the vote in Bossier; Barack Obama took Caddo 51%-48%.
Rep. John Fleming (R)
Elected: 2008, 1st term.
Born: July 5, 1951, Meridian, MS .
Education: U. of MA, B.S. 1973, M.D. 1976.
Family: Married (Cindy); 4 children.
Military career: Navy, 1976-82
Elected office: Webster Parish coroner, 1996-2000
Professional Career: Physician; Businessman
The new Congressman from the 4th District is John Fleming, a Republican who narrowly won in December 2008. He prevailed following three tough contests in two months. A physician, Fleming had little political experience, other than a four-year term in the 1990s as coroner of Webster Parish. He grew up in Meridian, Miss., the son of a utility substation operator who worked two or three jobs to make ends meet. His father died of a heart attack just before Fleming finished high school. His mother was disabled and so relied on Social Security to support Fleming and two younger siblings. After undergraduate and medical school at the University of Mississippi, he spent six years in the Navy, where he did his medical residency. He later opened a family medical practice in Minden, La., and as a sideline, operated 30 Subway restaurants in the state and had a stake in 130 UPS stores, from Mississippi to Texas. He also wrote a book called Preventing Addiction: What Parents Must Know to Immunize Their Kids Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction. In 2007, Fleming was on the social services advisory council of Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal’s transition team.
|John Fleming (R)||44,501||(48%)||($1,828,695)|
|Paul Carmouche (D)||44,151||(48%)||($1,844,290)|
|Chester Kelley (I)||3,245||(4%)||($39,510)|
|John Fleming (R)||43,012||(56%)|
|Chris Gorman (R)||34,405||(44%)|
|John Fleming (R)||14,500||(35%)|
|Chris Gorman (R)||14,072||(34%)|
|Jeff Thompson (R)||12,693||(31%)|
The competition for the seat began when influential Rep. Jim McCrery, the ranking Republican on the Ways and Means Committee, announced his retirement in December 2007. (He later joined a Washington lobbying firm.) The early front-runners for the GOP nomination were trucking-company executive Chris Gorman and Bossier Chamber of Commerce President Jeff Thompson, who was supported by McCrery and the National Republican Congressional Committee. In the first round of voting, which was delayed a month because of Hurricane Gustav, Fleming led with 35%, to 34% for Gorman and 31% for Thompson. Next came a runoff campaign with Gorman. Both men held similar, conservative views, emphasizing the need to reduce federal spending and taxes, and both spent heavily. Fleming spent over $1 million, much of it his own money, while Gorman spent $1.8 million. Fleming captured the nomination 56%-44%.
Democrats lined up early behind Paul Carmouche, a 30-year Caddo Parish district attorney who styled himself as a centrist Blue Dog Democrat and ran an anti–abortion rights, anticrime campaign. Fleming emphasized his own conservative credentials, calling himself a Ronald Reagan Republican and emphasizing his opposition to abortion rights and support for gun ownership. He called for abolishing the Internal Revenue Service and replacing the current income-tax system with a national sales tax. And he said he favored tough measures against illegal immigrants, decrying an “invasion by illegal aliens.” Fleming out-raised Carmouche $1.4 million to $1.2 million and got a big helping hand from the NRCC.
On Dec. 6, 2008, Fleming won by 350 votes. Carmouche led 57%-39% in Caddo Parish, which cast 43% of the vote. He also took four rural parishes outside Shreveport. Fleming ran strongly in the southern part of the district and in Bossier, which had the second largest vote and became the swing parish. He won there 61%-34%. In the House, Fleming got seats on the Armed Services and Natural Resources Committee and said that he expected a competitive re-election contest in 2010.