Caleb Kleinpeter takes District 17 Senate seat in primary election

Staff Report

Caleb Seth Kleinpeter, a first-term West Baton Rouge Parish councilman, will head to the State Capitol to assume a seat previously held by a fellow parish resident.

Kleinpeter, a Republican from Brusly, captured a first-round victory for the District 17 Senate seat Nov. 8 when he defeated state Rep. Jeremy LaCombe, D-New Roads, and Dr. Kirk Rousset, a Republican from Oscar.

Kleinpeter – a pipeline technician with Enterprise Pipeline who served combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan with the U.S. Marine Corps – will finish the term Rick Ward began in 2020 after he won re-election outright in the primary. Ward relinquished the seat after he accepted a job in the private sector.

“This victory was not about me – it was about my team,” said Kleinpeter, 41. “I believed in myself, and I believed in my team, and I always said I thought we could win it in the first (primary).

Caleb Kleinpeter

“The people spoke, and some people were shocked,” he said. “I wasn’t, but I’m humbled that the voters turned out and they wanted change, and I’m going to get in this Senate seat working just as hard as I did when I was running for senator.”

The Grosse Tete native – who graduated from Brusly High School – claimed his strongest percentages came in St. Martin Parish, where he dominated with 85 percent (431 votes) against LaCombe’s 7 percent (35) and Rousset’s 8 percent (41).

The largest tally based on number of votes came from his native Iberville Parish, where 4,263 voters supported Kleinpeter – 18 votes more than LaCombe. Rousset garnered 677 votes (6 percent), his best showing across the district.

He also finished strong in Assumption Parish, where he commanded 2,553 votes (76 percent) to LaCombe’s 438 (13 percent) and Rousset’s 384 (11 percent).

Kleinpeter, drew 2,208 votes (55 percent) in his home base of West Baton Rouge, while LaCombe notched 1,427 (36 percent) and Rousset gained 363 (9 percent).

LaCombe’s only parish win came from Pointe Coupee, where he notched 5,161 votes (53 percent) against 3,912 (40 percent) for Kleinpeter and Rousset tallied 615 (6 percent), which amounted to his strongest showing across the district.

Kleinpeter also finished strong in East and West Feliciana, notching 56 percent of the votes in each parish.

Kleinpeter drew 4,081 votes to LaCombe’s 2,803 (38 percent) and Rousset’s 415 (6 percent) in East Feliciana.

In West Feliciana, he captured 557 votes against 323 (33 percent) for LaCombe and 107 (11 percent) for Rousset. 

Kleinpeter garnered 3,028 votes (48 percent) in East Baton Rouge, while LaCombe finished with 2,738 (43 percent) and Rousset gained 557 (9 percent).

In St. Helena, only 3 percentage points separated Kleinpeter and LaCombe. Kleinpeter led the pack with 1,156 votes (48 percent) to LaCombe’s 1,083 votes (45 percent). Rousset drew 190 (8 percent).

Kleinpeter will take office during what promises to be one of the busiest election years in almost a decade. The 2023 cycle will be highlighted by a potentially crowded ballot in which Republicans have already begun maneuvering to put the GOP back in state’s top seat after two terms under term-limited Democratic officeholder John Bel Edwards.

Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry, who announced his candidacy last month, has already drawn endorsement from the Louisiana GOP.

LaCombe will remain in the state House of Representatives, where he holds the District 18 seat he won in a special election.

He replaced Major Thibaut, who resigned after he was elected Pointe Coupee’s first parish president. 

LaCombe will be up for re-election next year and will serve his first year in Baton Rouge during a budget year for the legislative session.

Kleinpeter said he will be working with Ward on details regarding the issues he will face as senator.

He said received a congratulatory call from LaCombe on Election night.  

“I have a lot of respect for Jeremy for doing that … he’s great guy and I’ve always said that.

“I told him I looked forward to working with him, shaking hands with him and putting our differences aside,” he said. “There were things from outside sources put out on him, and it was the same way with me, but I told him I need him for his experience, and we need to work together to make this a better place … he agreed, and I look forward to working with him when we get to the session.”