Disgraced former Louisiana Gov. Edwin Edwards, who served eight years in federal prison for racketeering and extortion, formally launched a bid for Congress on Monday.
The 86-year-old Democrat unveiled his intentions last month to seek the open 6th District seat, but he made it official Monday with a colorful news conference, during which he laid out his policy agenda and reasons why he is giving elected office another go.
"I did not vote for Obama — where I was at the time there were no voting machines," Edwards said, referring to his time in jail, garnering laughter from the room. "But I would not have voted for Obamacare."
Louisiana's 6th District, which GOP Rep. Bill Cassidy is vacating to run for Senate, is heavily Republican. Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney carried the seat by a 34-point margin in 2012.
Edwards said his centrist views, which include opening the controversial Keystone XL pipeline and amending the Affordable Care Act, will make him an attractive candidate in the crowded jungle primary field, which currently includes about a dozen candidates . He said he expects to advance beyond the November primary to face a Republican in the December runoff.
"I'm not one of those Democrats who have some hard feelings towards Republicans," Edwards said. "Edwin Edwards is in the middle."
In Louisiana, all candidates run on the same ballot on Election Day in November. If no candidate garners at least 50 percent of the vote, the top two vote recipients head to a run-off in December.
With his high name recognition after 16 years as governor — he also served four terms in the House from 1965 to 1972 — and a short-lived reality TV show on A&E, Edwards could make the runoff along with one of the many GOP contenders in the race.
Edwards, who will turn 87 this summer, noted he also considered running against vulnerable Democratic Sen. Mary L. Landrieu but opted for the Baton Rogue-based House seat. Edwards said he has not spoken with Landrieu about his race.
Following Edwards' announcement, the Louisiana Republican Party panned Edwards' candidacy.
"After failing to recruit credible candidates for multiple election cycles, the Louisiana Democrat Party finally landed a notable candidate for public office. Unfortunately, Edwin Edwards is known for all the wrong reasons," Jason Doré, the state party executive director, said in a statement. "His antics may be fit for a reality show, but not public office."
Louisiana's 6th District is rated a Safe Republican contest by Rothenberg Political Report/Roll Call.