GONZALES — Eight of 13 candidates running for the District 2 Senate seat left vacant when Troy Brown resigned in February spoke Thursday about the need to listen to and respect the constituents, take concrete actions and address education.
The forum for the candidates in the majority-black district was hosted by a new voters league formed by two black leaders of Ascension Parish.
In remarks before the forum began, Charlie Stephens, who with Tim Riley founded the league with representatives from each of the eight parishes in District 2, said, "We must stop voting by the color of the skin. We must vote by their integrity."
The election is April 29.
Several of the candidates at the forum mentioned bringing respect back to the District 2 seat, which was created in 2011 as a majority-black district. Brown resigned as an expulsion proceeding against him was being planned in the Senate after his arrests in two incidents involving violence against women.
Candidates at Thursday's forum were Elton Aubert, St. James Parish; Wayne Brigalia, Iberville Parish; Shannon Comery and Chris Delpit, both from Ascension Parish; state Rep. Edmond Jordan, West Baton Rouge Parish; Patrick Lawless and Willie Massey-Farve, both from Assumption Parish, and Tommy Lyons, Lafourche Parish.
All are Democrats, except Brigalia, who is a Republican, and Lyons and Massey-Farve, both no-party candidates.
Candidates not there were Albert Burl and Jamie Roussell, both from St. John the Baptist Parish; Warren Harang III and Rep. Ed Price, both from Ascension Parish, and Jerry Jones, Lafourche Parish. All are Democrats.
If there was a common theme at the forum, where each candidate had five minutes to tell why they were seeking office, it was the need to listen to constituents and take action.
"We need someone to say what they mean and mean what they say," said Delpit, of Gonzales. "We need someone who is going to actually stand up for us."
A good leader must have "a purpose, a passion and a plan," said Massey-Farve, of Geismar.
"There are people who are hurting," said Jordan, of Brusly. "I want to be the guy that people say of 'He served us, not himself."
"The No. 1 thing our people are lacking is empathy," said Comery, of Donaldsonville. "Nobody is there to discuss any issues with them."
Education was another theme.
"We should shape our education so that when students graduate, they have a career and not a dead-end job," said Aubert, of Vacherie.
Brigalia, of Sunshine, wants to push for dual-enrollment programs, in which students can earn college credit, in "every high school in Louisiana."
Meanwhile, another candidate, Lyons, of Thibodaux, said, "I think we have to fundamentally restructure government" in Louisiana.
Lawless, of Belle Rose, echoed comments made by Stephens at the forum's start, saying: "This district is set up for a leader, whether they're black, white or brown. We need people who are going to represent the people."
Before the candidates spoke Thursday night, Stephens said the Christian Super Pac would be going squarely after state Rep. Ed Price, of Gonzales, if he seeks re-election.
"If anybody gets in the runoff with Ed Price, we're going to vote against" Price, Stephens said.
Editor's note: This story was changed April 22, 2017, to correct the spelling of Tim Riley's name.