Four Republican contenders for the 6th District congressional seat generally agreed on key issues Monday, while former Gov. Edwin Edwards staked out different views on boosting the minimum wage, gay unions and “Obamacare.”
The comments took place during an hour-long forum at the Press Club of Baton Rouge.
A total of 12 candidates are on the Nov. 4 ballot.
Unless one contender gets 50 percent plus one, the race will be decided in a runoff on Dec. 6 between the top two finishers.
The candidates were given opening and closing comments of 90 seconds each and answered questions from the audience.
The GOP contenders on hand were Dan Claitor, Garrett Graves, Paul Dietzel II and Lenar Whitney.
Edwards is a Democrat.
All four Republicans said they opposed a boost in the minimum wage, which they said would do more economic harm than good.
Dietzel said such a federal hike would boost costs to employers and those higher prices would be passed on to consumers.
Edwards said he would back a gradual increase to $10.20 per hour. “It is a matter of fairness,” he said.
The current rate is $7.25 per hour.
The 6th District extends from southeast Baton Rouge to the suburbs west of New Orleans and through the bayou communities into parts of Houma.
It is considered friendly territory for Republicans.
On another topic, all four Republican contenders said they back the traditional definition of marriage — one man and one woman — and several noted that Louisiana voters approved a constitutional ban on same-sex marriages with 78 percent of the vote.
Edwards said he too backs traditional marriages, but said the state should also allow same-sex civil unions with the financial benefits that traditional couples enjoy. “I don’t want to call it a marriage, but they are entitled to a civil union,” he said.
The federal health care overhaul, known to insiders as the Affordable Care Act, also drew fire from Claitor, Dietzel, Graves and Whitney.
Dietzel said he wants to repeal it in pieces, if not altogether.
Graves said a friend told him his insurance premiums have risen from about $400 per month to about $1,200 because of the overhaul.
Whitney said she opposes “Obamacare” and favors allowing states to sell insurance policies across state lines as part of a bid to increase competition.
Edwards said officials should retain the good parts of the law and adjust other sections. “That’s about as far as we can go, honestly,” he said.
Edwards served nearly a decade in federal prison after he was convicted of racketeering.
Whitney, a state lawmaker, said she is known as one of the most conservative voices in the Legislature and that one of her top priorities in Congress would be energy independence.
Graves, a former aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal, said his work overseeing the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and other posts will allow him to “hit the ground running” in Congress.
Dietzel, a businessman, boasted that he does not have any government experience, which he said would be a plus in the nation’s troubled capital on economic revival and other issues. “All we have from Washington, D.C. is to tinker around the edges,” he said.
Claitor, a state senator from Baton Rouge, said his top priority would be combating “crony capitalism” and pushing for fewer, flatter and fairer taxes.
Edwards said within 90 days of his election he would convene a conference of traffic officials and others to come up with solutions to traffic problems on Interstate 10 in Baton Rouge.
All four GOP contenders gave President Barack Obama low marks when asked to rate him on a scale of 1 to 10.
Those fellow Republicans who ranked Jindal, gave him around a 4 or 5.
Edwards gave Obama a 5 and Jindal a 3.
Claitor told the audience that he was “not completely myself” since his parents were involved in an automobile accident on Saturday.
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