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|Alexander's next move|
Now serving his fifth term in the U.S. House representing Louisiana's 5th District, Congressman Rodney Alexander is the same man northeastern and central Louisiana voters elected in December 2002.
Grounded, soft-spoken and very humble, Alexander was a veteran member of the state House of Representatives when he took the bait some nine years ago to stand as the only Democrat in a field of Republicans in the 5th District race.
Very few people – yours truly included – thought Alexander stood a chance to succeed Republican Congressman John Cooksey, who gave up the 5th District seat back then to oppose Sen. Mary Landrieu. Alexander won, though, by less than 1,000 votes in a hard-fought run-off against Cooksey's protégé, the late Lee Fletcher.
Since taking office in January 2003, Alexander has quietly carved out his niche as a congressman who does a fine job of tending to his constituent's needs. He won't win the most eloquent person of the year award, but seldom do you hear anyone complain about Alexander. That's a rarity in congressional politics in America today. Besides, his plain-spoken ways are somewhat reassuring.
Recognizing the handwriting on the wall in representing the decidedly conservative 5th District, Alexander switched parties and became a Republican in 2004. He parlayed the party switch into a seat on the powerful House Appropriations Committee, and with his influential committee assignment, Alexander has secured much needed federal dollars to fund infrastructure improvement projects in one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation, the 5th District of Louisiana. Not exactly the mark of a true conservative, but when you represent a congressional district as needy as the 5th, strident ideology must take a back seat from time to time.
Now the most senior member of the U.S. House from Louisiana, Alexander is still as soft-spoken and humble as he was nearly a decade ago when he made the leap from the state House to the U.S. House. He seems a bit restless, though. Maybe that's not the most accurate description of Alexander these days, but that's the impression he gave during a visit a couple of weeks ago.
What does that tell us?
It tells us that Alexander may be weighing his options for the future, a future that could include a race for the U.S. Senate if Landrieu opts not to seek re-election in 2014. It also could entail a race for governor in 2015 when Bobby Jindal bows off the scene after two terms in office, assuming Jindal completes his second term. That's a big if in light of Jindal's active role in national Republican Party politics.
There's no doubt Alexander would make a first-rate U.S. senator, but he would make a better governor because he's more interested in impacting people's lives directly than belonging to the most exclusive club in the world, the U.S. Senate. Make no mistake, Alexander could positively impact people's lives far quicker as governor than he could as a junior senator from Louisiana.
If it's Alexander's desire to run for governor in four years, he must get re-elected in 2012 and again in 2014. That shouldn't pose much of a problem since it's unlikely Alexander will face any serious opposition from the more conservative wing of the Republican Party. A challenge from the left wouldn't present much of a problem either since the state Democratic Party is in such disarray.
Still, running for governor is similar to piecing together a race for a seat in the U.S. House, except on a much larger scale. It's a slow, cumbersome process of networking with people who know you and people who want to know you.
Alexander's been there before. He did it a decade ago when the odds were stacked against him in his first race for Congress.
Maybe it's time he did it again.