THIBODAUX, La. (AP) — Four top candidates in Louisiana's U.S. Senate race drew greater distinctions their backgrounds than in policy Thursday night, as they introduced themselves to voters who are just tuning in to a campaign that has largely been overshadowed by the presidential race.
Republican U.S. Rep Charles Boustany, Democratic Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, Democratic lawyer and businesswoman Caroline Fayard and Republican Treasurer John Kennedy were the only contenders out of 24 vying for the seat on the Nov. 8 ballot to be invited to the forum at Nicholls State University.
Boustany touted his Washington experience, what he called "an extensive record of getting real legislation passed" in a dysfunctional Congress.
Fayard, who has never held elected office, made a pitch as a younger, fresher "new generation of leadership."
Campbell vowed to speak up and fight the "tap-dancing politicians."
Kennedy criticized politicians of both parties in Washington, saying they need to be replaced.
Despite the different perspectives, all four expressed support for road improvements, coastal restoration work and Louisiana's farms and fishing industry. And predictably, the Republican candidates talked of undoing President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, while the Democrats suggested making improvements but keeping the health care law in place.
The differences were starker on issues such as body cameras for police and the role of banking regulations.
Boustany said he doesn't support requiring police officers to wear body cameras, citing technical problems and questions of privacy.
"It is not ready for prime time, and it undermines the respect that we need to have for our law enforcement," he said.
Fayard said she's spoken with deputies who see some benefits to wearing bodycams and that they can help exonerate officers accused of inappropriate activities. But she doesn't favor "unfunded mandates, where you'd be mandated to buy this equipment without proper training and without proper support."
Campbell said he remained undecided on the issue and needed to talk with law enforcement agencies more. Kennedy didn't specifically address body cameras, but said too many people are blanketing police with disrespect.
"When a radical jihadist blows up a school with schoolchildren in it, we're told not to judge all Muslims because of the act of one. Fair enough. Then, how come some people in our country judge all law enforcement officers because of the acts of a few?" the treasurer said.
Asked about banking regulations put in place by Congress after the financial crisis that struck in 2008, all four candidates said the 2010 Dodd-Frank law needed adjustments because it was too burdensome on community banks.
Boustany went the furthest, saying he voted against the legislation and that it "needs to be drastically scaled back." He said a new federal agency charged with protecting consumers that was created under the law operates with too little oversight from Congress and should be jettisoned.
Campbell defended the intention of the federal law.
"As far as the big banks, somebody has to tell them and has to keep a close eye on them because I think they're greedy, as obvious when they almost took the country down," he said.
No one mentioned a dispute that erupted this week between Boustany and Kennedy. Boustany has accused his GOP rival of spreading allegations that Boustany was involved with prostitutes who were later killed. The allegations were raised in a new book, which cites anonymous sources. The Associated Press hasn't been able to independently confirm the allegations and Boustany calls them "despicable lies."
Two other candidates in the race, Democrats Derrick Edwards and Josh Pellerin, showed up to the forum, but weren't allowed to participate because the chambers of commerce sponsoring the event said they didn't reach the polling benchmark.