Election is off to slow start

ISSUES IGNORED — Candidates for Louisiana governor and the Legislature have, so far, ignored the major issues facing their state. Voters need to ask them some tough questions.

How is the race for governor going so far? A former Louisiana state representative who served two terms in the state House in the last century offered what is a fairly good description of the current campaign.

“Louisiana gubernatorial elections were once really big deals. This year, not so much. At least, so far,” Ron Faucheux said a week ago in a guest column in The Advocate. Faucheux is a nonpartisan political analyst based in New Orleans who publishes LunchtimePolitics.com, a daily newsletter.

“Today’s campaigns are more professional, computerized and partisan,” Faucheux said. “They’re also less fun, not because they’re less corrupt or showy, but because they’re more scripted and seem less relevant to real life. That’s a loss, but don’t let that keep you from the polls on Oct. 12.”

Candidates for statewide, legislative and local offices will be qualifying next week, and many hopefuls have already announced they are running. We will have a complete picture at the end of filing a week from today.

Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards is seeking a second term. U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, R-Alto, and Baton Rouge Republican businessman Eddie Rispone are his major competitors. Gary Landrieu, an independent and cousin of former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, has also announced. There are expected to be others.

Edwards, with $9.6 million on hand, and Rispone, with $9.8 million, appear to have enough campaign money to fund a major campaign. Abraham had only $1.3 million on hand at the last filing date, but he has picked up numerous endorsements. The latest came from state Rep. Lance Harris, R-Alexandria, and chairman of the House Republican delegation.

Rispone is funding most of his campaign, and he has committed to spending $5 million on television ads. A political action committee supporting Abraham has accused Rispone of trying to buy the election. Friction between the two political camps is exactly what the Louisiana Republican Party had hoped to avoid. It is what cost Republicans the 2015 election.

The Advocate reported that both GOP candidates are dredging up issues that have dominated the national news cycle. They are trying to out-Trump each other, the newspaper said, in order to prove their loyalty to President Trump who carried Louisiana by 58 percent in the 2016 election.

Edwards is former trial lawyer who represented accident victims, and the Republican duo says that reputation has hurt the state’s economy. However, Mark Ballard of The Advocate said over a decade Edwards represented only about a half-dozen people injured in car wrecks and few of those cases were tried and all but one of the awards were modest.

While Abraham and Rispone are emphasizing their ties to Trump, Edwards isn’t letting voters forget it was former Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal who left the state in a financial quagmire. And the two Republicans are advocating some of the same Jindal policies that left Edwards with a $2 billion state budget deficit.

The Gambit newspaper in New Orleans in a commentary said “Edwards has been strong if not exciting” on fiscal matters. It adds that it took three 2018 special sessions to stabilize the budget because of “grandstanding over not raising taxes” by the Republican-controlled House.

Edwards is the first candidate to roll out a policy paper. The Advocate said he reiterated his support for dual enrollment and backed expanded access to apprenticeships and other workforce development programs. He is also calling for more early childhood education funding.

The GOP candidates have said a lot about cutting taxes and the state budget, which got the state into trouble during the Jindal years. However, they haven’t given voters any details about what they would cut or how they would do it. Abraham did say he would quickly sign a bill eliminating the 0.45 percent state sales tax increase that stabilized the state budget for the first time in nearly a decade.

“The burden my opponents have is they literally have to try to convince people they were better off in 2015 than they are today,” Edwards said during a Lake Charles stump speech. “They can’t do that. People are not that stupid. They know they are better off today.”

A number of excellent budget and tax reform plans have been drawn up in recent years, but the Republicancontrolled Legislature failed to agree to seek better long-term solutions.

The Committee of 100 for Economic Development, the Council for a Better Louisiana and the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana and their thousands of members hope to change the state’s direction. They believe special attention needs to be paid to state finances, education, transportation infrastructure and criminal justice/public safety.

Those are the issues gubernatorial and legislative candidates should be talking about, but it isn’t going to happen until voters demand it. Unfortunately, too many voters don’t seem to be in tune with the election at the moment. Let’s hope that changes.

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