SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) - The number of candidates vying to replace outgoing Louisiana 4th Congressional Representative Jim McCrery dropped after Saturday night's election. However, northwest Louisiana won't send a new representative to Washington until after Thanksgiving.
In the Democratic Party primary, Former Caddo Parish District Attorney Paul Carmouche came a few percentage points short of winning the race outright. He'll now face Willie Banks, a retired army colonel from Vernon Parish, in a runoff race in November (click here to see results from across NW LA).
"Frankly, I think people underestimated us because we're an unknown quantity," Banks said. "But I'm not surprised at all, and that's the God's honest truth."
Carmouche said he'll start to focus more of his campaign in the southern part of the district. "We're going to go down there as often as possible and do whatever it takes to get our name out there better and to make sure the people know who I am, that I'm a 30-year prosecutor, that I've been D. A., that I've run a very good office up here."
In complete but unofficial results, Carmouche led the four-man race with 48%. Banks came in second with 23%. Attorney John Milkovich, who ran for the same seat in 2002, was third with 21%. Shreveporter Artis Cash received 8%.
The three republican candidates came close to evenly splitting Saturday's vote, with only four percentage points separating the candidates.
Former Webster Parish Coroner John Fleming won 35% of the votes. That was only one percentage point, or 430 votes more, than Shreveport Businessman Chris Gorman. The men now move on to the party primary runoff in November. Jeff Thompson, who got McCrery's endorsement, was third with 31%.
Louisiana's change back to a party primary system for federal elections was so the state could send its senators and representatives to Washington at the same time as the rest of the nation. Statewide damage from Hurricane Gustav forced Secretary of State Jay Dardenne to postpone the original party primary date of September 6. November 4 will now hold party primary runoffs instead of a final, decisive election. The general congressional election for all candidates is now set for December 6. That means the winners of the 4th Congressional District and the 2nd Congressional District in south Louisiana, which is in a similar situation, will probably be the last two representatives sent to Washington.
For voters on November 4, it could mean confusion over what races they can and cannot vote in, depending on what party they're with. The runoff race for the republican congressional party primary, which is between Fleming and Gorman, is open only to registered republican voters, per republican party rules. The runoff race for the democratic congressional party primary, which is between Carmouche and Banks, is only open to registered democrats and registered independents. This holds true for these two races only. The rest of the ballot on November 4 is open to everyone.
Voters will get to cross party lines in the December 6 general congressional election. That race will include the runoff winner from the fourth district republican race, the runoff winner from the fourth district democratic race, other party candidate Gerard Bowen and independent candidate Chester T. Kelley.
(The Associated Press contributed to this story)