A crowded field of five candidates are jockeying for the House District 63 seat, with many emphasizing grass-roots improvements they hope to be able to bring to the Zachary, Baker and Scotlandville areas.
The seat was opened up by current state Rep. Dalton Honoré’s decision to run for state Senate. The candidates include former Metro Councilman Ulysses “Bones” Addison and Barbara West Carpenter, a dean at Southern University.
Other candidates are political newcomer Dean “Deaneux” Vicknair, lawyer Joyce Marie Plummer and James E. Slaughter Jr., a real estate broker who has run previously for the seat. All the candidates are Democrats.
The election is Oct. 24, with a runoff Nov. 21 if necessary.
Addison, 54, may be the most well-known of the candidates, having served on the council until he was term-limited in 2012. Addison has run a market research firm since 1987 and worked with various nonprofits, including as president of the Community Association of Welfare for School Children.
Known as an outspoken member during his time on the council, Addison jumped into the race on the last day to qualify. In June, he lost his bid to be appointed the new East Baton Rouge Parish registrar of voters.
“My legislative focus is on education, higher and secondary,” Addison said, noting that this would mean reviewing state funding.
Addison, of Baton Rouge, said other challenges included providing a decent quality of life for the elderly by connecting the district to state resources that can help.
He said he takes public service seriously and is prepared to make sacrifices that serving the community often requires.
“When I worked on council, I was away from my family quite a number of hours, as opposed to me working from 9 to 5,” Addison said. “Service means you have to make additional sacrifices.”
Addison is largely financing his campaign, loaning himself $10,000, campaign finance records show.
Carpenter is the dean of international education at Southern University. She served on the board of the East Baton Rouge Parish Housing Authority for 27 years, including six terms as the chairman.
“I am not a resident political animal,” Carpenter said. “I’m a community servant and educator.”
She said she wants to solve problems for the district by building coalitions to fulfill the basic needs of citizens, including housing, helping people develop basic skill sets and make sure people live in safe environments.
“We need to help people develop the skills they need to survive,” she said. “I formed the first adult literature program in the Scotlandville area, taught them to read and to manage basic skills that many people take for granted to survive.”
Carpenter, 70, said her roots in the district run deep. Her father was the principal of Scotlandville High School and her mother the assistant principal of Baker Middle School, where Carpenter later taught, as well.
“You can’t get more District 63 than me,” she said.
Carpenter, of Baker, has raised $15,440 in contributions through the most recent campaign report, while she and family members have loaned the campaign a total of $7,300.
Plummer, a local lawyer who ran for 19th Judicial District Court Judge against 18-year incumbent Richard Anderson last year, did not respond to repeated requests for an interview.
Plummer, of Baton Rouge, has been a civil attorney since 1987 and spent three years as a law professor at Southern University. She worked as a researcher for the Board of Trustees for State Colleges and Universities, known now as the Board of Supervisors for the University of Louisiana System, and she served as general counsel for the Department of Revenue.
Plummer has raised $8,975, including $5,000 from Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigbsy and his wife, who are big contributors in school board elections. Campaign records show she also received $1,500 from FuturePac, which is associated with the Baton Rouge Area Chamber. Plummer loaned herself $5,000, campaign finance records show.
James E. Slaughter Jr., a real estate broker with a law degree, said the district’s issues stem from the fact that local residents no longer own many of the businesses in the area, from grocery stores to gas stations.
“When I grew up in the Southern University area as a child, every business was owned by someone in the community, and now we don’t own anything.”
Slaughter, 65, has deep connections to Southern, having earned both his degrees from there. His father, James E. Slaughter, taught at Southern University for 32 years.
Slaughter, of Baton Rouge, has run for the position before. He wants to encourage entrepreneurship, and foster educational opportunities for young people in the district, including expanding vocational education.
“I want to work for the people in my district,” he said.
Slaughter has not raised or spent any money on his campaign, reports show.
Vicknair, 46, who has not run for office before, said he was inspired to seek the House seat because of his frustrations with state government.
He said he was forced into retirement from his position at the Louisiana Department of Public Safety as a result of Gov. Bobby Jindal’s policies. Vicknair spent more than two decades as an information and technology professional with the agency.
“I blame the Jindal administration every step of the way, and I continue fighting them,” he said.
Vicknair, who lives in Baton Rouge and has also started two businesses, said he understands “the hardships people face.”
He said he wants to address crime by reforming the criminal justice system, and he wants to improve health care in the district, noting he supports expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.
“Ethically and morally, I believe it is our responsibility to care for our sick,” he said.
He has raised $2,424 and loaned himself $4,223, campaign records show.