Fleming Wins Seat Despite Influx of Democratic Cash

Posted December 8, 2008 at 6:10pm

Republican Rep.-elect John Fleming, one of two new Members from Louisiana, has an undefeated record in the two political campaigns that he has run in his lifetime.

Fleming’s first campaign took place a dozen years ago when he won a four-year term as Webster Parish coroner. Then, on Saturday, Fleming’s political career took a giant leap forward when he earned 356 more votes than Democrat Paul Carmouche (D-La.) in the hotly contested 4th district race to decide the successor of retiring Rep. Jim McCrery (R).

As of Monday, Carmouche had yet to concede the race, and his campaign said that because of the narrow margin, Carmouche was looking into provisional ballots and waiting until the state officially certifies the results later this week. Even if the results don’t change, Carmouche has told supporters that he intends to retire after serving for 30 years as Caddo Parish district attorney.

But as Democrats hold out hope, Fleming — who has worked as a navy medical officer, private physician and businessman — is already moving ahead with discussions about committee assignments and office space as he prepares to take office in January. Fleming said Monday that he has told House GOP leaders that he is interested in serving on the Energy and Commerce, Transportation and Infrastructure, and Armed Services committees.

Fleming spent just less than $1 million in personal funds on his Congressional bid but was a political unknown before entering the race. Even with the self-funding advantage, Fleming’s GOP primary victory was unexpected because he beat the man that the national party backed for the seat, as well as another multimillionaire.

After the primary — which took place Nov. 4, after the state officials revamped Louisiana’s elections calendar in the wake of Hurricane Gustav — the national party moved quickly to back Fleming and keep the conservative-leaning 4th district seat out of the hands of Democrats, who saw an opportunity in the open-seat race.

The National Republican Congressional Committee spent more than $950,000 on the contest, and Fleming received support from the political action committees of scores of Congressional Republicans over the past month. Those efforts appear to have been just enough to offset the roughly $1.2 million the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee spent on the contest.

On Monday, Fleming said that considering the effort Democrats put forth in order to pick up the 4th district this cycle, he expects to be a target again in 2010.

“I’m going to start with the assumption [Democrats] will [target the 4th district next cycle] and run thusly,” he said. “We’re going to try to underpromise and overperform … so that in two years, there won’t be any question in the voters’ minds who’s going to be the best choice.”

Fleming, 57, and his wife, Cindy, have four children. Between his business ventures and medical practice, he has also found time to write a book, “Preventing Addiction: What Parents Must Know to Immunize Their Kids Against Drug and Alcohol Addiction.”

Fleming’s net worth places him among the half-dozen or so freshmen who will likely rank among the 50 richest members of Congress next year. According to Roll Call’s analysis of Members’ financial disclosure forms, 50 members of the 110th Congress had a minimum net worth of more than $5 million, with a few, such as Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), having assets worth more than $100 million.

The disclosure form Fleming filed as a candidate indicated assets worth a minimum of $8.1 million and liabilities worth a minimum of $705,000, leaving his minimum net assets at about $7.4 million. However, it is hard to pinpoint exactly how much Fleming is worth because some of his major assets are shared with other family members and the incoming Congressman owns portions of those assets. Fleming reported being a participant in 20 limited liability corporations or other businesses.

Paul Singer contributed to this report.