Friday, October 2, 2015

A critical vote for Louisiana: Gambit's endorsements

Posted By on Fri, Oct 2, 2015 at 4:00 PM

Gambit makes the following endorsements in the Oct. 24 Louisiana primary election. Early voting begins Sat., Oct. 10. To learn more about the candidates, see sample ballots and find your polling place, download the Secretary of State office's smartphone app, GeauxVote. A downloadable and printable PDF of these recommendations is at the bottom of the page.

Governor: Jay Dardenne

click to enlarge Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
  • Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
Voters across Louisiana will begin picking a new governor when early voting commences this Saturday, Oct. 10. Every election is important, but this one is pivotal. We have one chance — just one — to reverse the failed policies of Bobby Jindal. We cannot afford another culture-warrior governor who’d rather grandstand on social issues than solve the structural problems that hold our state back. We can do better. We must do better.

Louisiana desperately needs intelligent, honest, courageous leadership. We need a governor who will unite us, not divide us. We need someone who can and will reach across the aisle to forge consensus for policies that fully fund public universities, hospitals, mental health programs and other priorities. We need a leader who will focus on fiscal and budgetary reforms, restore our fragile coastline, reduce our horrific incarceration rate and improve access to early childhood education. This is no time for divisive ideologues — we’ve had that for eight years, and it has shown with disastrous consequences just how miserably government can fail. For these reasons and more, we believe Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne should be Louisiana’s next governor.

The best predictor of someone’s future performance is his past performance. In his nearly quarter-century of public service, Jay Dardenne has served admirably, ethically and intelligently at every level — as a state senator, as our secretary of state and most recently as our lieutenant governor. He knows every corner of Louisiana. He understands the needs of all her people. He works with everyone for the common good — and above all, he does the right thing for the right reason.

As a state senator, Jay Dardenne championed reforms that made our state stronger. As secretary of state he improved services to citizens and businesses, and as lieutenant governor he helped grow Louisiana’s hospitality industry. Most important, throughout his career Jay Dardenne has worked successfully with Republicans, Democrats and independents to do what’s truly best for Louisiana. He is a man guided by his inner moral compass, a man whose actions and decisions come from a clear-headed sense of purpose. As governor, he will bring those strengths to a state sorely in need of honest, intelligent leadership.

Unlike some of his opponents, Jay Dardenne is not hidebound by ideology. He has not flip-flopped on Common Core, and he has never signed the Grover Norquist pledge. Instead, he has put Louisiana’s interests first. He is practical yet principled. He believes in fixing what’s broken — such as Louisiana’s loophole-riddled tax code — rather than tilting at windmills. He would abolish the inventory tax but still provide aid to local governments; he would cull statutory budget dedications rather than automatically raise taxes; and he would negotiate Louisiana-specific terms with the federal government that would allow us to provide health care for the working poor.

Voters will be bombarded with rhetoric, hyperbole and attacks in the coming weeks. We urge all Louisianans to reject the divisive political tactics of the culture warriors and ideologues. We hope voters instead will focus on what candidates have actually accomplished. By that measure and others, Jay Dardenne is the best person to lead our state for the next four years.

Lt. Governor: John Young
The office of lieutenant governor oversees the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. Hospitality is Louisiana’s second largest industry, and our state’s unique culture is a huge attraction to millions of visitors every year. Louisiana has been well served by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne. The race to succeed him has attracted several good candidates, but we think Jefferson Parish President John Young is best suited to lead this office going forward. Young has been a strong advocate for area tourism, arts and culture. We feel he will work well with our next governor to promote Louisiana to the world.

Attorney General: Buddy Caldwell
The attorney general is the state’s chief legal officer, and a job that important cannot be entrusted to someone who lacks real courtroom experience. Incumbent Buddy Caldwell has decades of experience as a prosecutor, and his office has recouped billions in damage awards for the state by pursuing environmental and pharmaceutical violators. Caldwell’s chief opponent, former Congressman Jeff Landry, literally has never tried a criminal case before a jury. This one should be an easy choice for voters: Caldwell for attorney general.

Secretary of State: Tom Schedler
Incumbent Secretary of State Tom Schedler has done an outstanding job as Louisiana’s chief elections officer, rising above the state’s partisan political divide to render impartial service to voters and candidates. His office also is user friendly for businesses and attorneys who constantly need to file and access important records. Despite deep cuts to his budget, Schedler continues to provide a high level of service and professionalism to the public. He deserves re-election.

State Treasurer: John Kennedy
The state treasurer manages the state’s investments and sets the agenda for the Bond Commission, which is the borrowing arm of state government. Incumbent John Kennedy has done a superb job at both tasks. He also has been a staunch advocate for fiscal and budgetary reform — two items that directly affect the state’s credit rating. He warned years ago that Louisiana was headed for a “fiscal waterboarding,” but Gov. Bobby Jindal ignored those warnings. Now we’re all paying the price. Louisiana needs a watchdog like John Kennedy in the treasurer’s office, and we urge his re-election.

Insurance Commissioner: Jim Donelon
Jim Donelon came into office shortly after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when Louisiana’s insurance landscape was in tatters. He instituted policies and practices that helped stabilize the insurance market and, over time, lowered rates and decreased Louisiana’s dependence on Citizens, the state’s insurer of last resort. He is the first Louisiana insurance commissioner to be elected president of the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, an honor that underscores our endorsement of his re-election.

Agriculture Commissioner: Mike Strain
In 2008, Mike Strain took over one of the most mismanaged, dysfunctional offices in state government. The Department of Agriculture and Forestry was bloated, corrupt and in disarray. Today, thanks to Strain’s efforts and leadership, it’s one of the best-run agencies in government. Strain has cut unnecessary programs and personnel, instituted key reforms and made the department an example of efficiency. We heartily endorse his re-election.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)

BESE District 1: Jim Garvey

Jim Garvey has been immersed in efforts to improve public education for more than a decade, and his commitment is evident in his service on BESE. He has been a leading voice for higher standards and expanding opportunities and options for public school families. We urge his re-election to BESE from District 1.

BESE District 2: Kira Orange Jones
Kira Orange Jones likewise has been a staunch advocate for reform and innovation as a member of the state’s education board. She supports charter schools not because they are a “cure all” but because she knows they offer many parents and students a viable alternative to failing schools. She deserves another term to continue the fight for education reform in Louisiana.

Legislative Races

Senate District 4: Wesley Bishop
Replacing veteran state Sen. Ed Murray is impossible, but we believe state Rep. Wesley Bishop is the best choice to succeed the popular and effective Murray. Bishop knows the legislative ropes and has a deep commitment to early childhood education as well as full funding for higher education. He also supports expanding Medicaid coverage.

Senate District 7: Jeff Arnold
Jeff Arnold has been a staunch, effective advocate for the West Bank during his years in the state House of Representatives. He is committed to restoring full funding to higher education and health care, and he has proposed innovative solutions to the state’s structural deficit. He is ready to fill the void left by the retirement of state Sen. David Heitmeier.

Senate District 9: Conrad Appel
Sen. Conrad Appel has been a leading voice for education reform at all levels, and as chairman of the Senate Education Committee he has stood tall against those who tried to undermine recent progress. He also is committed to fully funding early childhood education, restructuring Louisiana’s tax code and restoring our coastal wetlands.

House District 83: Robert Billiot
Rep. Robert Billiot represents this West Bank district well and has earned another term. He has worked hard to promote economic development in his district and is committed to coastal restoration and full funding for health care and all levels of education.

House District 87: Ebony Woodruff
Rep. Ebony Woodruff came into office midway through the current term and quickly developed the skills needed to be an effective representative for her West Bank district. She deserves the chance to serve a full term.

House District 94: Stephanie Hilferty
In the past, we have endorsed incumbent Nick Lorusso, and we have nothing bad to say about him now. We were just that impressed with newcomer Stephanie Hilferty, a commercial real estate exec and neighborhood association president. Hilferty shows an impressive grasp of the state’s major issues as well as the grass roots problems that plague this district, which straddles Orleans and Jefferson parishes. An example: she says she’ll push to get Lakeview and Metairie streets included in the state’s Submerged Roads Program and other road repair programs. We think Hilferty will bring new energy and fresh ideas to the area delegation.

House District 97: Joe Bouie
Rep. Joe Bouie won a special election last year to serve a partial term and has served well on three important committees — House and Governmental Affairs; Civil Law and Procedure; and Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs. He already has earned the respect of his colleagues, and he deserves election to a full term.

House District 99: Jimmy Harris

This district includes the Lower 9 and Bywater. We believe newcomer Jimmy Harris stands out as the candidate best suited to tackle the challenges of these still-recovering neighborhoods. Harris stresses the importance of early childhood education as well as full funding for higher ed and public hospitals. He supports expanding Medicaid so that working families can obtain health insurance. He has governmental experience as an aide to Congressman Cedric Richmond, and he therefore will be able to hit the ground running in Baton Rouge.

House District 100: John Bagneris

This district encompasses much of New Orleans East, an area that in many ways is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Bagneris brings thoughtful ideas to the task of reforming the state’s budget problems and a lifetime of experience working with community-based programs. He will focus on economic development, early childhood education, and full funding for higher ed and health care. He also has specific ideas about how to pay for the state’s Master Plan for Coastal Restoration, which is a vital issue in a district that has huge swaths of wetlands and is prone to storm-related flooding.

House District 102: Lourdes Moran
Lourdes Moran was an outstanding member of the Orleans Parish School Board, where she helped restore the struggling district’s bond rating and advocated for educational excellence and reform. She understands not only the need to fully fund all levels of education but also how to implement fiscal and budgetary reforms that will make full funding possible for education, public health care, economic development and other priorities.

Orleans Parish School Board: Keith Barney

Voters in the Lower 9 and New Orleans East will choose a new member of the Orleans Parish School Board to replace Ira Thomas, who resigned from the board and pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to a bribery scheme. The School Board faces many challenges and needs a voice of reason as well as a member who will restore voter confidence. We believe Keith Barney is the right candidate for this important job. He recognized both the potential and the challenges confronting charter schools, and he proposes forensic audits for both the local school system and the Recovery School District. A certified special education teacher, Barney recognizes the needs for consistency in the education of special needs children. These are the kinds of ideas and skill sets that our public school system needs.

New Orleans Referendum

French Quarter Sales Tax: YES
Crime in the French Quarter threatens to cripple the local hospitality industry and destroy the livability of the city’s oldest and most historic neighborhood. Voters who live in the Quarter are being asked to levy a quarter-penny sales tax in their neighborhood to generate $2 million a year for additional police protection. If approved by voters, the proposition would create an “economic development district” to collect the sales tax, much of which will be paid by visitors, to provide more local cops, special security details, civilian patrols and a continued state police presence. We urge French Quarter voters to say “YES” to this important proposition.

State Constitutional Amendments

Amendment No. 1 (Budget and Transportation Stabilization Trust): YES
Amendment 1 would tied up some loose ends in the state’s so-called Rainy Day Fund by splitting its dedicated purposes evenly between budget stabilization and transportation. Both of these issues are the subject of annual “budget crises” that deserve more fiscal clarity.

Amendment No. 2 (State Infrastructure Bank): YES
Amendment 2 would authorize the investment of public funds to capitalize a state infrastructure bank to be used solely for transportation projects. This proposed amendment goes hand-in-glove with Amendment 1, and we urge its adoption.

Amendment No. 3 (Legislative Fiscal Sessions): YES
Amendment 3 would broaden but also clarify the types of bills that state lawmakers may consider during “fiscal-only” legislative sessions, which occur in odd-numbered years. We support this amendment.

Amendment No. 4 (Ad Valorem Tax on Public Properties): NO
This amendment seeks to let local governments tax property in Louisiana that is owned by other states. Unfortunately, it is poorly worded and could lead to adverse unintended consequences. We recommend voting “NO” on Amendment 4.

Jefferson Parish Elections

Sheriff: Newell Normand
Sheriff Newell Normand continues to raise the standards for law enforcement in Jefferson Parish. In contrast to the seemingly runaway crime problem in New Orleans, Jefferson Parish has seen a significant drop in overall crime in recent years. Sheriff Normand has brought new technology to the job of fighting crime and has engaged business leaders, clergy and educators to help rescue at-risk youth offenders. He deserves another term as sheriff.

Jefferson Parish President: Mike Yenni
The race for Jefferson Parish president has attracted a strong field, but we feel the person best suited to lead Jefferson into the future is Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni. He has the energy, the vision and the drive to address the major issues that confront an aging suburban parish. As Kenner’s mayor, Yenni has reinvigorated city government with a “can-do” attitude that the rest of Jefferson sorely needs. We believe he will work returning and new council members to solve the parish’s problems with sewerage, drainage, recreation and other issues. We endorse Mike Yenni for parish president.

Jefferson Parish Council

At-Large Division “A”: Chris Roberts
Chris Roberts has a knack for putting together coalitions to get things done on the parish council. That talent serves parish government well. Roberts is committed to directing BP oil spill monies to the areas most impacted by the disaster, as well as to the parish’s coastal restoration efforts. He proposes to focus on streamlining the parish’s building permit process and improving code enforcement in his next term. He has earned re-election to his at-large council seat.

District 1: Ricky Templet
Ricky Templet has represented the interests of his Gretna-based district well. A former state lawmaker, he has strong relationships in Baton Rouge that help Jefferson get its share of state funds for key capital projects. He advocates further improvements to parish flood and hurricane protection systems, more funds for coastal restoration, and needed reforms to the parish’s troubled housing authority. He deserves re-election to the council.

District 2: Paul Johnston
The incumbent, Paul Johnston, has helped expand quality-of-life programs for Jefferson Parish’s growing population of senior citizens. He also advocates dedicating a large portion of the $35 million BP settlement to coastal restoration. In the past and going forward, he will work to improve traffic flow, drainage and sewerage services, and streets. He also proposes an Avondale Development District to focus on bringing new jobs to the former shipyard.

District 5: Jennifer Van Vrancken
District 5 is losing an effective leader in Cynthia Lee-Sheng, who has already won an at-large council seat — but Jennifer Van Vrancken offers voters in that district a chance to maintain the high quality of council representation that Lee-Sheng provided. As a former parish administrator, Van Vrancken well knows the challenges that confront Jefferson, and she has the skills and intelligence to help lead efforts to address those challenges. She will work to rebuild the parish’s fragile coastline, improve services to senior citizens and overhaul the parish’s aging infrastructure. We heartily endorse Jennifer Van Vrancken for Council District 5.

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