If re-elected to the state Senate for District 23, incumbent Page Cortez said he’d continue to deliver funding for road improvements. His challenger, political newcomer Terry Hughes, said he’d push to end Common Core and seek a major overhaul of state-funded consulting contracts.
Cortez is seeking a second term in the Senate. He was first elected to the Legislature in 2007 to the House of Representatives.
“Eight years ago when I ran, I ran on a platform on roads and infrastructure,” Cortez said.
The legislator listed the projects he said were made possible with funding he helped secure: six lanes for U.S. 90 from Pinhook Road to Ambassador Caffery Parkway; Chemin Metairie Parkway; an overlay of La. 92 through Youngsville; a third lane for La. 733; and funding for other projects in the Broussard/Youngsville area, such as three lanes for Main Street in Broussard.
Hughes said if elected, he’d focus on changes to K-12 education and attempt to get the Common Core State Standards removed from classrooms in response to complaints he’s fielded from educators and parents in the district.
The state’s public school children took the first tests aligned with the standards this spring, but the results will not be released publicly until November. The standards are designed to provide a common benchmark for state-to-state comparison of what students are learning in the classroom, but some have criticized not only the content used to develop the curriculum but also the way the standards were implemented. Previous efforts to toss out the standards have failed.
Hughes said he also wants to see an overhaul of the state budget and an end to the state paying consultants to perform work that can be done by its own employees.
“I think we waste too much money on out-of-state contracts,” Hughes said. “We have a lot of good, bright, intelligent people employed in the state of Louisiana. Why not allow them to do their job? If they can’t do the job, why are they on the payroll?”
Hughes has never run for a political office before but said he was spurred into action after watching the state’s budget crisis unfold.
“I think people of Louisiana are fed up with leaders right now,” he said. “In the last session, you hear they fixed this. If they did, why are we about to have another shortfall?”
A special session on the budget is expected before the regular legislative session next spring. Hughes said he offers a fresh perspective on state spending.
“We don’t have a budget problem. We have a spending problem,” he said.
“I know I’m just one vote, but hopefully, I can make that one vote count,” Hughes said. “When I do get elected, I will make sure that I have and leave a big imprint on my community. If you don’t leave any imprint, what’s the point of doing it?”
Cortez said he has the experience to help work out solutions during the special session and over the next four years. He said he decided to seek re-election to leverage his experience for the district’s benefit.
“I feel that I have the experience, having spent eight years learning the system in Baton Rouge, that now I can be very effective and hopefully in a leadership position in the Senate,” he said. “I really believe that in Lafayette Parish, which I believe to be a self-sufficient parish, the one issue in my district is roads money, so that has been my priority since I’ve been there. Certainly there are other issues in the state, and we’ll tackle those as they come.”
Cortez said that in the regular session, he plans to keep pushing forward funding for projects such as the I-49 corridor and other road projects for Lafayette.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.