La. GOP Candidate Pressured to Drop Out

In the space of two weeks, Jock Scott (search) went from being called an "excellent" Republican candidate by his party to being pressured to drop out of the congressional race.

Scott said that is not something he will do, despite his party's support of incumbent Rep. Rodney Alexander (search), who made a last-minute switch from Democrat to Republican last week.

"I have been subjected since Friday evening to a constant effort in numerous different ways to get me out of this race," Scott said. "The Republican Party at the national level just won't quit trying to get me out of this race."

Carl Forti, a spokesman for the National Republican Congressional Committee (search), denied it has pressured Scott to drop out, but repeated what they have been saying for days: Republicans are now backing Alexander, who caused an uproar by first qualifying as a Democrat, then as a Republican two days later.

Alexander will get full financial backing from his new party, with a $10,000 check already in the bank and more on the way.

Scott's campaign will get nothing.

"They've given him every advantage known to mankind," Scott said. "They've gone to elected officials who had endorsed me and gotten them to change their minds."

Scott, a longtime Republican activist and former state legislator, said he is not unhappy with his party, but he does not appreciate the way they've handled his race.

"Sometimes even good organizations make faux pas. They're using their time, their talent, their money in a way that could be better used in a district where Republicans and Democrats are opposing each other.

"I would assume that they have bigger fish to fry than little 'ol Jock Scott," he said.

Conservative, Protestant and rural, the north-central Louisiana district went for President Bush by 17 points in 2000, and Republicans considered it a likely capture this year before Alexander switched parties.

The Louisiana Federation of Teachers released a letter Wednesday it said Alexander wrote in March, explaining why he wouldn't join the Republicans: "It would be impossible to join a party that not only ignores the people that make this country great, but also pressures their members to vote against any and all bills that are supported by unions."

A spokesman for Alexander denied that the congressman had written the letter. "We did not send this out," spokesman Adam Terry said.

Alexander has pledged to return the money given to him by members of his old party -- close to $90,000 -- and said Tuesday that he was "hurt" by the Democrats' response to his 11th-hour defection. Party leaders and officials have called him a "traitor," "confused," and a "coward."

"It hurt like the dickens," the first-term congressman said in a conference call with reporters. "I wasn't a coward. That took a lot of courage to do that."

The Louisiana Democratic Party said if it can't have Alexander disqualified from the Nov. 2 ballot, it will seek to have him recalled if he wins re-election. Democrats were particularly incensed because the late switch effectively prevented the party from fielding a strong candidate.

An unknown Democrat, homemaker Zelma Blakes, qualified for the race earlier.

Under Louisiana's unique open primary system, all candidates run on the same ballot regardless of party. If no one gets more than half the vote on Nov. 2, a runoff will be held in December.

"I'm somewhat puzzled as to how much hoopla this has created," Alexander said, describing himself as "pro-life, pro-guns, and pro-business."