This week marks the beginning of early voting across Louisiana (starting Tuesday, Oct. 21), and for many Louisianans the election cannot come soon enough. The hotly contested U.S. Senate race has tested voters' tolerance for shrill rhetoric and hyperbole more than any other election in memory. At the end of the day, we hope voters will remember they are choosing someone to represent — and protect — Louisiana's interests in Washington. This is not a referendum on President Barack Obama. In two years and three months, America will have a new president. The question Louisiana voters should ask themselves between now and Nov. 4 is, "Who can best protect Louisiana's interests in Washington?" We think the answer is obvious: Mary Landrieu.
As a three-term incumbent and committee chair, Landrieu has incalculable cachet in the Senate. She chairs the powerful Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources — a post that is vital to Louisiana's economic future and America's energy independence. From that spot, Landrieu literally oversees all legislation that affects the energy industry, which, for all its faults, continues to employ hundreds of thousands of people across our state. As three well-known Republican business leaders recently noted, Louisiana cannot afford to lose Mary Landrieu in the Senate. Replacing her in the Senate with a rookie at this crucial time will cost our state billions in federal aid — and many thousands of good jobs.
Landrieu's Republican opposition has mounted a campaign based on fear, exaggeration (if not outright falsehoods) and anger — most of it funded by out-of-state special interests that don't have Louisiana's interests at heart. There's no denying that Obama is unpopular in Louisiana, but it should be equally obvious that replacing Landrieu with a rookie senator will not "send a message" to the White House or diminish the president's power. Instead, it would take away immeasurable clout from Louisiana's delegation — clout that Landrieu has used to make life better for all of the state.
Time and again, Landrieu has stepped up to help Louisianans recover from tragedy — after Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Isaac, and after the BP Oil disaster — and she steadfastly has helped local governments (particularly law enforcement) get needed federal funds to better serve their constituents. She led the fight to keep military bases open in Louisiana, to roll back draconian flood insurance rate increases and to secure billions for coastal restoration and flood protection projects. While her main opponent, Congressman Bill Cassidy, sings a one-note chorus of "Obama, Obama, Obama," Landrieu reminded voters in last week's debate (the only debate Cassidy has attended thus far), that Obama is not on the ballot on Nov. 4 — but Louisiana's future is. Voters should remember that a vote against Landrieu is a vote against Louisiana's future. We strongly urge our readers to vote FOR Louisiana's future by re-electing Sen. Mary Landrieu.
In addition to the U.S. Senate race, there are many other important races on the Nov. 4 ballot. Gambit does not endorse in judicial races, but in other area elections we make the following recommendations:
>> Steve Scalise and
Two years ago we noted that Scalise, a conservative Republican, and Richmond, a liberal Democrat, could teach their colleagues an important lesson in bipartisanship. Their political philosophies differ sharply, but their personal friendship dates back a decade to their days as state lawmakers. Both men represent their respective and very different districts well — Scalise in District 1 and Richmond in District 2 — yet they work together exceedingly well when Louisiana's interests are at stake. One important example was their effort to gain House approval of a bill to forestall horrific flood insurance rate hikes. Scalise had to buck the tide among his GOP colleagues, but he secured enough votes among them to help pass a rate relief bill.
Since their last elections, both men have gained valuable clout in Congress. Scalise has become a national figure following his election last summer as House Majority Whip, a post that puts him two steps from the House Speaker's chair. Richmond is now a key member of the Congressional Black Caucus and is aiming for a spot on the House Ways and Means Committee. Their continued service in Congress will inure to the benefit of south Louisiana, and we recommend both men be re-elected.
Public Service Commission, District 1:
>> Forest Bradley Wright
The Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates utilities in most parishes outside Orleans, but its decisions significantly affect utility prices and policies across the state. This is a very important but little-noticed regulatory body, and some of its members have a shameful history of cozying up to the utilities they regulate. The incumbent, Eric Skrmetta, is a classic example of that. Skrmetta, a wealthy attorney, has accepted more than $300,000 in campaign contributions from utilities and their affiliated interests, according to The Times-Picayune. We suggest voters replace Skrmetta with Forest Bradley Wright, a former director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy who has taken no money from monopoly utilities. That's the kind of political and financial independence all PSC members should show.
>> Eric Chatelain
A native of Harahan, Eric Chatelain has served on the City Council since 2012. In his campaign for mayor, Chatelain has focused on city finances and improvements to city sewerage and drainage services. He proposes to save taxpayers money by pumping Harahan's sewage into the parish system and use the savings to improve infrastructure — particularly sewerage and drainage lines. He is endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government.
New Orleans City Charter Amendment, contracting: >> YES
This proposition puts into the charter a set of reforms that Mayor Mitch Landrieu instituted by executive order in 2010. It would require a competitive selection process for professional services and establish a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. We recommend saying YES to this proposition.
Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District Millage:
The Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District levies a 2.9-mill property tax to pay for new jail construction. This proposition rededicates a portion of the existing millage no longer needed for debt service to jail operations and maintenance, which are vital for compliance with the federal consent decree designed to make the jail meet constitutional standards. We recommend voters say YES to this proposition.
New Orleans City Charter Amendment, inauguration date:
This proposition would advance the inauguration date of the mayor and City Council from the first Monday in May to the second Monday in January, starting in 2018. This gives new mayors and council members greater control over city budgets during a change in administrations. We support this proposition.