Louisiana’s 2010 Fourth District U. S. Congressional Race very well could be the most civilized race in what has become one of the most contentious elections in modern history.
Although the incumbent, one-term Republican John Fleming of Minden, LA, and challenger, Democrat David Melville of Bossier City, LA are diametrically opposed on many of the issues, neither has anything unkind to say about the other.
Both candidates are men of God, which may account for the genteel manner in which the race has been carried out. Melville, a United Methodist minister, is the more soft-spoken of the two, but Fleming, a devout Southern Baptist, gives God credit for the opportunities that eventually brought him success as a physician, and later a businessman.
And both men have been married for more than three decades, and each is the father of four grown children, though Flemings are lagging behind the Melvilles in the grandparent department—John and Cindy Fleming have two grandchildren, David and Melanie Melville have eight, with another one on the way.
Melville, who has served in several capacities in United Methodist churches over the past 20 years, holds a Master of Divinity degree from Drew Theological School in Madison, N.J.. His early training and experience, however, was clearly for a life in the political realm. He holds bachelor and master’s degrees in Political Science, has held public office as a Bossier Parish Police Juror, worked as an aide for the late U.S. Rep. Joe D. Waggoner in Washington D.C., and served on the campaign staffs of the late state Sen. Allen Ellender, former Louisiana Secretary of State Jim Brown, and was campaign manager for his brother-in-law Buddy Roemer’s congressional campaign.
Fleming was the oldest of three children born to working class parents in Meridian, MS. His father was a World War II veteran who came home from the war, got his GED and went to work for a power company, and his mother worked for the telephone company, until she became disabled and couldn’t work. After his father died suddenly when he was 17, Fleming attended college at Mississippi State and medical school, working part-time and summers to help supplement his family’s income.
. After graduating from medical school, Fleming enlisted in the U.S. Navy where he did his three-year residency, followed by three years of active duty. He and his wife settled in Minden with the help of a consultant who found the all-American small town, near a larger city that was just the place they wanted to rear their children. His family practice in Minden grew out of space he rented quickly, and soon, with the backing of local banker, he was able to build new offices and take in a partner.
Then, in 1986, Fleming began to expand - he brought the first Subway Store to Northeast Louisiana. Today, he owns 30 Subways in North Louisiana, as well as Fleming Expansions, a sub-franchiser for The UPS stores. That company is responsible for 130 UPS stores in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
“This is not only an historic election,” Fleming said, “It is an epic election.” He said when town hall meetings were held in August of 2009, “Washington turned a tin ear to the voice of Americans. The response of many members of Congress was to stay away.”
Fleming said he is confident Republicans will win back majority status in Tuesday’s election, and that Congress will be less partisan as a result, with Democrats invited to add amendments to legislation.
Now a member of the House Armed Services Committee, Fleming is eyeing a seat on the Energy and Commerce Committee, if his party gets control. With the recent Haynesville Shale find, the fourth largest natural gas find in history, he thinks the Fourth Congressional District deserves a seat at the table. As a physician, he’s also interested in health care, and said he believes it will take at least 10 years to straighten out the health care problem in America.
Melville, if elected, is determined to work toward a spirit of cooperation in Congress, promising to “reach across the aisle.” He also believes there is a “culture of corruption” in Congress, and “stop the revolving door that leads “from Capitol Hill to the lobbying firms on K Street (in Washington, D.C.).