State Senate candidates: Out-of-the-box thinking needed at Legislature

Published 9:17 pm Thursday, November 11, 2021

The Lake Charles chapter of Top Ladies of Distinction hosted a “Your Voice, Your Vote Town Hall” on Thursday with candidates for the Louisiana District 27 Senate seat. Dustin Granger (D) and Jacob Shaheen (R) were present for the event. Republican candidate Jeremy Stine did not attend.
Bessie Fletcher, event moderator, said the purpose of the town hall was to ensure viewers were “ready to participate in the primary election this Saturday.”

In their opening remarks, both candidates expressed their viewpoint on Louisiana politics and their motivation for running for the seat. Besides the need to prioritize the region’s recovery on a state level, Granger said the possibility of him assuming the Senate seat is important because he’s “the only Democrat on the ballot.”

While he doesn’t consider himself a “far-left” candidate, he does support protecting voting rights, especially in light of upcoming redistricting, insurance reform, economic growth for all areas, criminal justice reform and public education.

“People over profit. That’s my underlying value,” Granger said.

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Shaheen is running on a “truly grassroots campaign,” he said as he hasn’t accepted any large corporate donations. Corporate donations to candidates is a form of “legalized bribery” and the root of most of the state’s problems, he said.

Describing himself as “the working class candidate,” Shaheen said he is a Catholic Republican but “not a Republican of the establishment.” Much of his agenda centers around getting big money out of politics and developing a more values-based system.

When asked of their plans to meet the needs of all parts of District 27 — which includes Sulphur, Moss Bluff, Westlake, North Lake Charles and parts of South Lake Charles — the candidates differed on their approaches. Shaheen emphasized that “everything comes back to money and politics.”

This is seen clearly, he said, in the fact that the district’s median household is $6,000 below the rest of the state despite being home to billion dollar industries.

“That’s because the biggest, most powerful companies just buy off all the Legislature,” he said.

Granger said his upbringing and personal life keep him in touch with residents from all the district. Growing up in Sulphur, working in downtown Lake Charles, living in North Lake Charles and having a client-base primarily of Westlake residents, he said, “I’ve built deep relationships in all areas.”

“A lot of my platform really reaches and connects with all people and it doesn’t matter where they’re from. We’re for all working people. We’re for what’s right. When I get to the Legislature, it’s also important to continue that and build relationships from a wide variety of ideologies.”

When questioned on bringing improvements specifically to North Lake Charles, both candidates agreed that out-of-the-box thinking will be key. Shaheen suggested the development of a co-op to address the area’s food desert.

“So we can give wealth to our graduates in that area so they have some incentive to stay here and provide a needed service to the area,” he said.

Similarly, Granger suggested that programs in conjunction with the city and the possibility of a land bank with the state could help bring revitalization the area.

“But we have to be careful not to run people out of the area through gentrification and expansion. People who’ve lived there, we need to make sure they can stay there.”

The candidates concluded the planned portion of the Town Hall expressing their top agendas if elected. Shaheen said addressing campaign finance, climate change and infrastructure are his top concerns for the position.

A road home program for displaced families, insurance reform, redistricting and disaster preparation are among Granger’s top concerns.

The event concluded with Judge Sharon Wilson giving a strong reminder to the audience on the importance of voting.  “We have a responsibility to watch this Republic. How do we keep it a Republic? We keep it by voting,” she said.

“You can’t complain unless you participate. Our government is run by the people who actually participate. Please go out and vote.”