Grambling State University Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer Martin Lemelle, Jr. announced in July his candidacy for Louisiana’s Fifth Congressional District election.
“I’m running for the 5th Congressional District because the opportunities that exist in Louisiana have not been realized,” Lemelle said. “There are far too many citizens within our state, within our district, a district that is one of the largest in the country but is also one of the poorest.”
Lemelle said progress in the 5th congressional district, which covers most of northeast and central Louisiana, hasn’t changed within the last 15 years.
Republican incumbent Rep. Ralph Abraham announced in February his decision not to seek reelection in November.
If elected to Congress, economy and education will be among Lemelle’s priorities.
“I’m running to fight for a livable wage,” Lemelle said. “I’m running to solve the student debt crisis.”
Lemelle also said too many students in higher education in Louisiana leave their respective institutions in debt.
“We’ve got to find a solution that is sustainable and helps us create success and equal economic growth,” Lemelle said.
Lemelle, owner of Ruston Cycle fitness studio in Ruston, La., said he is also running for small business owners.
“There needs to be investments and structure from our fellow government to ensure that businesses can survive a pandemic like COVID-19,” Lemelle said.
Lemelle also wants to help constituents within the 5th congressional district gain access to better quality and affordable healthcare.
“Too many people within our district suffer from loss of life or some other severity because they can’t afford quality healthcare,” Lemelle said. “The healthcare they need isn’t within a mile radius or so that could save their life
Lemelle, who was recommended for endorsement by the Democratic State Central Committee’s Executive Committee, said his empathy and heart for public service distinguishes him from other candidates. “I am the most qualified and hardest working candidate in this race who is ready to deliver those results for the people of this district because we need it,” Lemelle said.
Lemelle was raised in Grambling, where his mother, Cynthia Lemelle, was employed by Grambling State University.
“I’ve literally had the great fortune to literally grow up on the campus of Grambling State University,” Lemelle said.
With an accounting degree from Grambling State University, Lemelle spent 12 years in corporate finance managing billion-dollar budgets for General Electric, IBM, Dean Foods and Industry Retail Group.
In 2016, after the appointment of Richard J. Gallot as university president, Lemelle returned to Grambling State University as Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer.
Under Lemelle’s tenure, GSU has received three years of clean audit opinions with no findings, seen a 100 percent improvement in its fiscal health score, refinanced existing student housing debt that resulted in an annual savings of $1.4 million, as well as securing $25 million in capital outlay for the construction of a new library.
In addition to his work in the private sector, Lemelle has also focused on his energies on community work, with the Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., as well as his work as a social justice advocate for the United Church of Christ.
Lemelle credits Grambling State University in shaping him as a leader.
“I literally owe a debt of gratitude to Grambling State University,” Lemelle, a second-generation GSU graduate, said. “My early experiences of being a Boy Scout, my early experiences of being involved in 4H and going to High Ability during the summer at Grambling State University started me on a pathway to understand what leaders like a Pinkie Wilkerson, President Gallot, Coach Rob, Dr. Helen Richards Smith, Dr. Ellen Smiley and so many others who’ve been mentors and supporters of me through my life.”
As an undergraduate student at GSU, Lemelle served in various capacities of the Student Government Association, including student body president.
“I want to work hard with our alums and supporters so that we can have Grambling’s first congressional representative in Congress,” Lemelle said. “Just like I’ve been able to balance budgets and deliver financial results, I know we can do that here in Louisiana when it comes to our citizens in the fifth congressional district.”