As usual, the race for governor has attracted a wide field of candidates—a total of nine from across the state—happy to take part in an exercise in civics. However, four serious contenders have seemingly emerged, each with their own plans relative to moving Louisiana forward.

Republicans, Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and U.S. Sen. David Vitter are joined by lone Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards in an election to determine Louisiana’s next governor.

SCOTT ANGELLE
Candidate did not respond to repeated requests for an interview or candidate profile.

JAY DARDENNE

With his current position as lieutenant governor, his previous tenure as secretary of state and the decade and a half he spent as a state senator, Jay Dardenne, 61, says he is the only candidate for governor with the expertise needed to lead Louisiana.

“I have prepared my entire career to face the challenges we have right now,” Dardenne told The Tribune. “Our next governor must have a track record of leadership. Having served as president or chairman of ten non-profit entities in the Baton Rouge area, having chaired the Senate finance committee in good times and bad and having managed two departments of state government, my record of leadership surpasses all of my opponents.”
As evidence of his track record, Dardenne points to his work as a state senator to author legislation that created the Louisiana Community and Technical College System, his work as secretary of state to introduce early voting and make the registration process more modern and efficient, and his current role as lieutenant governor.

“I have managed the growth of this industry, including the creation of 25,000 new jobs and bringing in $836 million in state sales tax revenue.”

Dardenne says the state’s top three issues are a “restricted and dysfunctional state budget, a subpar education system…and underfunded infrastructure, adding that he will take the lead in restructuring the state budget.

Among his recommendations to that end: restructuring the state income tax by reducing personal and corporate income tax rates and eliminating/reducing the number of credits, deductions, exemptions and exceptions.

“We need to evaluate the benefit derived by the state from these credits, as some are outdated and no longer provide a return on the state’s investment,” he says.

The candidate says he believes K-12 education in Louisiana is “adequately funded”, but he will focus on improving the funding of pre-K and post-secondary education in Louisiana.

“We have excellent pre-K programs that need to be adequately funded,” he says. “That will be a top priority in my administration. If you truly have priorities in government you fund them first. Then you get to the next one.”

Dardenne says he also plans to establish a pilot early education programs that targets children from birth to age three through partnerships with the private sector that are designed to help working parents in low-income areas.

“We can’t have another lost generation,” he says, ostensibly referring to the need to reach children in at-risk conditions with quality education and opportunities as early as possible.
On the issue of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, Dardenne says, “They won.” However, he still does not plan to accept the ACA expansion of Medicaid without some provisos. If elected, Dardenne says he will convene a commission to examine the issue and make a recommendation within 45 days.

“There are a variety of things we ought to consider to make sure this thing is beneficial to Louisiana,” Dardenne says. “We need flexibility to use the money to maximize the care we provide to indigent patients.”

Dardenne says he plans on being the “most accessible governor Louisiana has ever had,” adding that he will use existing government facilities to keep periodic office hours in major community centers across the state. “I’m going to bring government to the people. I am going to listen to the people in their hometowns.”

Dardenne says he will not support increasing the state’s minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

JOHN BEL EDWARDS

A 49-year-old state representative, John Bel Edwards is the only major Democrat candidate to emerge in the race for governor. He’s running, he says, because the state is in a dire predicament and he is the “only candidate with a clear record of opposing the disastrous policies” of the last eight years.

“For eight years, I have been in the legislature under Bobby Jindal. The governor has refused federal money, that’s just going to get spent in other states. It is offensive to me that the working poor do not qualify for Medicaid precisely because they work. I have filed legislation three years in a row to expand healthcare coverage in Louisiana for 350,000 people and bring $16 billion of our own federal tax dollars home that Gov. Jindal is turning away.”

Edwards says that while he has hardly been a “Jindal cheerleader or enabler” he is ready and able to work on bi-partisan efforts that help Louisiana.

“I am going to use the leadership I learned and practices as a cadet at West Point,” he says. “Louisiana needs honest leadership. I will work with local governments and business leaders. I know we can do better for the state.”

Edwards says he will support expanding laws related to equal pay for women, adding that he is “the only candidate who has voted for meaningful enforceable equal pay.”

Tackling the state’s budget issues is also a top priority for Edwards.

“Our state budget problems are preventing us from funding the priorities of government,” he says. “As governor, I am committed to (ending), capping and repealing portions of the $7 billion in annual tax giveaways that are not producing for our economy; growing the economy in a way that produces new net revenue, bringing $16 million of our federal tax dollars home over the next ten years to expand healthcare for working families; (and) never outsourcing tax and fiscal policy to…any special interest.”

Edwards supports making the temporary measures taken last session to reach a balanced budget permanent. Last session, the legislature reduced a number of tax credits, rebates, exclusions and exemptions to raise additional funds for the state budget.

Edwards also has some specific plans aimed at addressing crime, particularly in New Orleans, including supporting the continued use of state troopers in the French Quarter and addressing the state’s massive mass incarceration rate.

“As governor, I will re-examine mandatory minimums sentencing laws for non-violent offenders and steer non-violent offenders away from prison. This means they can be taxpayers, not tax consumers, leaving fewer children in poverty,” Edwards says. “When we sentence non-violent offenders to long stints in prison, we are creating more violent offenders. We would have to decrease our prison population by 5,500 inmates in order to be at least number two in mass incarceration. This would also save us at least $40 million a year (to reinvest in re-entry programs and mental health treatment). I think that is a modest goal. It is one that we can achieve and get folks to agree on. So I would start with the modest goal and continue to work.”

As relates to other areas of public education important to many New Orleanians, Edwards says the Recovery School District was “always meant to be a temporary fix,” adding that he voted in favor of HB 166 to bring successful schools back to the Orleans Parish School Board.

DAVID VITTER
Candidate did not respond to repeated requests for an interview or candidate profile.

The New Orleans Tribune

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