Neil Riser

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Neil Riser
Louisiana State Senator from District 32 (Avoyelles, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, Franklin, La Salle, Ouachita, Rapides, Richland, and West Feliciana parishes)
Assumed office
January 14, 2008
Preceded by Noble Ellington
Personal details
Born Hartwell Neil Riser, Jr.
(1962-04-25) April 25, 1962 (age 53)
Columbia, Louisiana, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse(s) Vicki Smith Riser
Children Emilie and Allison Riser

Hartwell N. Riser, Sr.

Lillian Marie Gore Riser Gentry
Residence Columbia, Louisiana
Alma mater Caldwell Parish High School
University of Louisiana at Monroe
Occupation Funeral home owner
Riser's local Senate office in Columbia is located across from the Caldwell Parish Courthouse.

Hartwell Neil Riser, Jr., known as Neil Riser (born April 25, 1962),[1] is a funeral home owner in Columbia in Caldwell Parish in northeastern Louisiana, who is a Republican member of the Louisiana State Senate. He was a candidate in the special to fill the seat of Congressman "top two" runoff election held on November 16, 2013, and was defeated by fellow Republican Vance McAllister, a political newcomer from Swartz.

Early life, education, and business career[edit]

Riser's grandfather, A. Hartwell Riser, was a city alderman from 1942 to 1950 in Ruston in Lincoln Parish.[2] Riser was born in Columbia to Hartwell Neil Riser, Sr. (1934–1985), and the former Lillian Marie Gore (born 1937), who married in Caldwell Parish in 1956. After her husband's death, Lillian Riser married Herschel Gentry, Jr., of Monroe. Neil Riser graduated in 1980 from Caldwell Parish High School in Columbia.[3]

Located south of Monroe in northeastern Louisiana, Columbia was also the home of Governor John McKeithen and McKeithen's son, Louisiana Secretary of State W. Fox McKeithen. In 1984, Riser earned a Bachelor of Science degree in business management from the University of Louisiana at Monroe (then Northeast Louisiana University).

He is president and owner of Riser Funeral Homes in Caldwell and La Salle parishes. Since 1934, the Riser family has operated the funeral home, which was begun by Riser's grandfather. Riser also serves as a board member of Caldwell Bank and Trust in Columbia. He is a past president of Pelican State Life Insurance Company. He was previously in the timber business, having worked in logging at the age of fourteen.[4]

Louisiana Senate[edit]


In 2007, State Senator Noble Ellington, then a Democrat, did not seek reelection to the Senate. Riser hence ran for the Louisiana Senate's 32nd district, based in the northeast portion of the state. In the open nonpartisan blanket primary, Riser ranked first with 49 percent of the vote and fell just short of an outright victory.[5] Riser attributed his success to "a good grassroots system that helped us. We did it one vote at a time...We truly were able to win against an embedded political system."[6] In the November general election, Riser defeated former State Representative Bryant Hammett, a Democrat from Concordia Parish. Hammett, a former chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, was the outgoing secretary of the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries under Governor Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.[6] Riser defeated Hammett 55-45 percent.[7]

Riser is the first Republican since Reconstruction to have won this Senate seat. John Henry Baker of Delhi was the first Republican to have sought the seat, but in the general election held on February 1, 1972, Baker fell well short of victory.

In 2011, Riser won re-election to a second term unopposed.[8]


The 32nd district included Catahoula, Concordia, Caldwell, Franklin, La Salle, and West Feliciana parishes and portions of Avoyelles, Ouachita, Rapides, and Richland parishes.[9]

Riser promised to file legislation to roll back the state income tax hike that became law when voters approved the Stelly Plan, named for former Republican State Representative Vic Stelly of Lake Charles. The rollback took effect early in 2009. Riser maintains that voters were misled when they ratified the Stelly Plan, which cut certain taxes and raised others.[10]

Riser vowed from the onset to work with Governor Jindal "to move our state and our region forward." He indicated that he would work to reduce the tax burden on businesses and families. His website stresses education, health-care reform, highway expansion, traditional values, and Second Amendment rights.[3] He advertised widely on the radio program of conservative talk show host Moon Griffon of Monroe, who urged listeners to support Riser.[11] Riser also obtained the support of the late congressional candidate Lee Fletcher of Monroe, who declared him "solid as a rock and has the best background to represent real change" in Baton Rouge.[12]

From 1996 to 2000, Riser was a member of the Louisiana Republican State Central Committee.

Committee assignments[edit]

Standing Committees
  • Agriculture, Forestry, Aquaculture, and Rural Development
  • Labor & Industrial Relations
  • Revenue & Fiscal Affairs (Chairman)
  • Senate & Governmental Affairs
Select Committees
  • Homeland Security
  • Veterans Affairs[13]

2013 congressional election[edit]

Riser was a major candidate for the U.S. House seat vacated in September 2013 by Republican Rodney Alexander. Alexander announced on August 6, that he would not seek a seventh term in the office that he had held since 2003 and then a day later confirmed that he would resign the House seat effective September 27 to join the administration of Governor Bobby Jindal. Riser declared himself "100 percent in the race. It's a decision I'd already made. I already represent ten of the twenty-four parishes in the district; so I’m confident I have a connection with the people in it and with their conservative priorities.[14] Riser was endorsed by U.S. Representatives John C. Fleming of Louisiana's 4th congressional district, Charles Boustany of Louisiana's 3rd congressional district and Steve Scalise of Louisiana's 1st congressional district.[15]

Riser's congressional campaign was managed by Timmy Teepell of OnMessage, Inc., of Alexandria, Virginia. Teepell was chief of staff to Governor Jindal during much of Jindal's first term and remains a close advisor to the governor.[16]

Riser finished first in a field of fourteen candidates from all parties in the special election held on October 19. He led in fourteen of the twenty-four parishes in the district, mostly by plurality. He received just under 32 percent of the vote. Vance McAllister ranked second with 18 percent. The two met in the runoff election held on November 16. In the first round of balloting, McAllister had led only in his native West Carroll Parish and Richland Parish, finishing a strong second in Ouachita Parish, where he operates a pipeline construction company, runs multiple Subway franchises, and promotes wrestling events. He was endorsed by Louisiana celebrity Phil Robertson of the A&E Network's Duck Dynasty television series, filmed in West Monroe. Robertson said the fact that McAllister has the least political experience is a factor in his favor.[17] McAllister narrowly edged Jamie Mayo, who received 15 percent of the vote, for the second runoff berth. Mayo is the mayor of Monroe and an African-American Democrat.[18][19]For the runoff contest, Mayo endorsed McAllister as "more approachable" than Riser. McAllister also had the support of Republican Clyde Holloway, who ran fourth in the primary election.

Though the district reaches south into the Florida Parishes, the top two runoff candidates came from adjoining Caldwell and Ouachita parishes in north Louisiana, close to Alexander's Jackson Parish, which supported McAllister, instead of Alexander's preferred successor, Riser.

In the runoff, Riser carried ten of the twenty-four parishes, four fewer than he had in the first round of balloting. McAllister led Riser, 54,449 (59.7) to 36,837 (40.3 percent), with all 981 precincts reporting.[20]

After the married McAllister was caught on his office security video kissing his congressional aide, he announced in April 2014, that he would not seek a full House term in the primary scheduled for November 4. He then hesitated about the decision, reversing himself afterward. Despite that, Riser confirmed that he would not run again for the congressional seat. Those in the race for the full term included Monroe Mayor Mayo once again, Republican physician Ralph Abraham, former Grant Parish District Attorney Ed Tarpley, Monroe attorney Harris Brown, and Public Service Commissioner Clyde C. Holloway. Mayo and Abraham will face each other in the runoff.[21]

State police retirement controversy[edit]

On July 2, 2014, Riser pushed through an amendment on the last day of the legislative session which would have increased by $55,000 annually the retirement pay of Colonel Mike Edmonson, the superintendent of the Louisiana State Police and a Republican appointee of Governor Jindal. Another state trooper from Houma would also inadvertently been similarly affected by Riser's amendment. Legislative rules prohibit a conference committee report from being considered on the last day of a session. However, both chambers voted by the two-thirds majority to suspend the rules and pass Riser's amendment, which became known in the media as the "Edmonson Act". Louisiana State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy has urged the state police retirement board, of which he is an ex officio member, to litigate the constitutionality of Senate Bill 294, which was promptly signed into law by Jindal.[22]

Though he had first denied authorship of the amendment, Riser said that he was asked to submit the measure to the full legislature by Charles Dupuy, the deputy police superintendent. Riser said it was his understanding that the bill in question addresses the rights of law enforcement officers and "broad retirement issues", not specific individuals who could benefit from its provisions.[22]

Meanwhile, government watchdog and Hammond attorney C. B. Forgotston claimed that Riser's amendment would have applied to "hundreds of thousands" of current and future retirees in all departments of state government and would have increased taxpayer liability by millions of dollars in additional accrued expenses. Forgotston said that Riser flatly lied to him in first denying the authorship of the amendment. "Riser has now said, ‘Yeah, it was me ...' He should have apologized to the public. He should have apologized to the other five members of the conference committee. He threw them under the bus. He definitely owes an apology to his staff member - he threw her under the bus."[23]

On September 16, 2014, Forgotston and Ruston journalist Tom Aswell, who broke the story, were vindicated when Janice Clark, a state court judge in Baton Rouge, declared the "Edmonson Act" unconstitutional. The successful suit challenging the law was brought forward by State Senator Dan Claitor, a Republican candidate for Louisiana's 6th congressional district seat in the November 4 primary election.[24]

Unopposed in 2015[edit]

Riser is unopposed for reelection to his third term in the state Senate in the October 24, 2015, primary election.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Riser is married to the former Vicki Smith, the daughter of Glen and Carolyn Smith of the Fort Necessity community in Franklin Parish. She taught at River Oaks High School in Monroe. The couple has two daughters, Emilie (born 1988) and Allison (born 1992).[3]


  1. ^ Net Detective :: Login :: Get the scoop on anyone!
  2. ^ "City of Ruston: Previous Public Officials". Retrieved October 28, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c Neil Riser for State Senate
  4. ^;
  5. ^ "Louisiana primary election returns, October 20, 2007". Retrieved November 25, 2009. 
  6. ^ a b The News Star - - Monroe, LA
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Louisiana general election returns, November 17, 2007". Retrieved November 25, 2009. 
  10. ^ The Ouachita Citizen: News: Riser announces candidacy for Senate District 32
  11. ^ The Moon Griffon Show
  12. ^ Louisiana News Link: Endorsement: Neil Riser Is Heads And Shoulders Better Than Bryant Hammett
  13. ^
  14. ^ "Greg Hilburn, "Potential candidates begin positioning," August 6, 2013". Monroe News-Star. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Jordan Blum, Veterans job speeds D.C. exit". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, August 7, 2013. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  16. ^ "". Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, October 14, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Scott Kaufman, Duck Dynasty’ patron Phil Robertson endorses Vance McAllister because he 'has the least experience', October 20, 2013". Retrieved November 3, 2013. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "U. S. Representative -- 5th Congressional District". Retrieved October 19, 2013. 
  20. ^ "5th congressional district special election returns, November 16, 2013". Retrieved November 16, 2013. 
  21. ^ Edwards earns runoff spot; kiss McAllister goodbye, Associated Press, Kevin McGill, November 5, 2014. Retrieved 7 November 2014.
  22. ^ a b Barbara Leader (July 30, 2014). "John Kennedy, board to discuss retirement benefits law". Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  23. ^ Lee Zurik (July 28, 2014). "Lee Zurik Investigation: Riser's amendment could cost state millions". Fox 8 Live. Retrieved August 1, 2014. 
  24. ^ Cole Avery (September 16, 2014). "'Edmonson Act' declared unconstitutional in state court". New Orleans Times-Picayune. Retrieved September 17, 2014. 
  25. ^ "See who has already won election". The Monroe News-Star. September 11, 2015. Retrieved September 12, 2015. 

External links[edit]

Louisiana Senate
Preceded by
Noble Ellington
Louisiana State Senator from District 32 (Avoyelles, Caldwell, Catahoula, Concordia, Franklin, La Salle, Ouachita, Richland, Rapides, and West Feliciana parishes)

Hartwell Neil Riser, Jr.

Succeeded by