Sawyer said he has expertise in transportation issues and hopes to serve on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, where Baker served for more than a decade.
"Even before the hurricanes, traffic was a horrible situation, and now it's been exacerbated. .. Not only is improving our roads and highways in the 6th Congressional District of Louisiana important, it also creates jobs and it improves the economy — which is why I say that transportation, jobs and the economy are my top priorities."
Sawyer acknowledges that Jenkins' advantage in name recognition puts him at a "distinct disadvantage." But, he added, "the more that I communicate to people about where I stand and that I can get the job done, it resonates."
Sawyer's campaign has sought to link Jenkins to David Duke, the former Ku Klux Klan leader who waged several unsuccessful campaigns for Louisiana office, alleging that Jenkins "secretly paid David Duke $82,500."
Sawyer's campaign cites an agreement between Jenkins' 1996 U.S. Senate campaign and the Federal Election Commission (FEC) that fined Jenkins' operation for filing inaccurate financial reports. The FEC document said that Jenkins' campaign made three payments of $27,500 each — a total of $82,500 — to its media firm, Courtney Communications, which served as a conduit to mask payments for services that were actually provided by a different firm Duke had recommended to Jenkins.
Jenkins, in response, accused Sawyer of having "launched a vicious and false personal attack." He distanced himself from Duke.
"I've never supported him and never wanted, asked for, or accepted his support for anything, and I've never paid Duke one cent," Jenkins said.
The third major candidate in the Republican field is Laurinda Calongne, the founder of a health care and business consulting firm. Her campaign communications have often touted her opposition to illegal immigration and her support for curbing federal spending and for socially conservative views such as an opposition to abortion.
In one of her campaign videos, Calongne describes herself as "a God-fearing churchgoer who believes our conservative Louisiana values are something worth fighting for."
Through Feb. 17, Calongne reported total receipts of $181,000, of which $115,000 came in the form of personal loans from the candidate. In recent periodic filings to the FEC, Calongne has reported putting more of her personal funds into her campaign — including $25,000 on Feb. 21, $40,000 on Feb. 29 and $25,000 on March 5.
Calongne also reported a recent contribution from the campaign committee of Louisiana Republican Rep. Rodney Alexander, who represents the adjacent 5th District in the northeastern part of the state.
The five-candidate Democratic primary includes a pair of Louisiana state representatives, Don Cazayoux and Michael Jackson.
Cazayoux got a jump on the rest of the field because he began running before Baker announced his resignation in mid-January. Cazayoux, whom the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has asked to challenge Baker, raised more money ($258,000) than any other candidate in either party as of Feb. 17.
In a recent interview with CQ Politics in Washington, Cazayoux noted that he has served in the legislature for eight years and has socially conservative views. He mixes an opposition to abortion and support for gun owners' rights with more traditional party positions on economic issues.