Out-of-work history professor Johnny “I Can” Duncan said he can think of one simple way to stimulate economic growth in Louisiana.
“Voters can start by helping me get a job as state representative, because I’m unemployed,” Duncan said.
Duncan, who has no party affiliation, is running against state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite, for the job of representing House District 72, which includes parts of East Feliciana and Tangipahoa parishes and all of St. Helena Parish.
The area is among the poorest parts of the state. More than 50 percent of the district’s residents are black.
Duncan said he is an African- American representative for an African American district. He said Edwards, as a Caucasian, needs to have an African- American challenger.
Edwards said Duncan is a one-trick pony.
“That’s all he’s saying,” Edwards said.
Edwards said his education, experience and understanding of government suggest that he is the better candidate.
Duncan disagrees, citing the district’s persistent unemployment problem, which he said Edwards has not eased.
Edwards is an attorney who was elected to the Louisiana House in 2007. He comes from a political family. He is chairman of the House Democratic Caucus.
Duncan taught history at a number of colleges before losing his last job. He credits himself with coining the term “African American” through a poem he wrote in 1986.
Both have military backgrounds. Duncan served in the U.S. Army for 21 years. Edwards was an Army Ranger.
Both candidates agree that education is the key to eradicating poverty in Louisiana.
Duncan said there needs to be more job training. He said children also need to learn at home how to conduct themselves in future job interviews.
Edwards noted that the state has not increased basic aid to public schools, called the Minimum Foundation Program, or MFP, in three years, resulting in teacher layoffs.
“Hopefully, we can find the revenue and the courage to increase the MFP,” he said.
A lack of revenue is dogging the state. Heavy cuts have been made to services because many legislators are resistant to increasing taxes.
Duncan said he is unsure whether further spending cuts should be pursued, saying he would have to be part of the in crowd at the State Capitol to draw a conclusion. He said he cannot imagine being in favor of raising taxes for people already financially hurting.
Edwards said he is not opposed to increasing the state cigarette tax to the regional average or to reviewing the billions of dollars in tax breaks granted by the state every year.
Duncan and Edwards also agree that jobs are their district’s greatest need.
“We need more jobs, better paying jobs with benefits,” said Edwards, pointing to a mega site in northern Tangipahoa Parish that is vacant.
Duncan, who has not worked since losing his job with Baton Rouge Community College in 2008, said he is an example of why job growth is needed.
JOHNNY ‘I CAN’ DUNCAN
No Party, Amite.
58, unemployed educator.
EDUCATION: B.A., M.A., Ph.D.
JOHN BEL EDWARDS
EDUCATION: B.S., U.S.
Military Academy; J.D., LSU.
EXPERIENCE: State representative.
WHERE TO VOTE
Ward/Precinct and location
East Feliciana Parish
7-1 Highway 67 Voting Booth (North)
8-1A Magnolia Fire Station
8-1B Magnolia Fire Station
St. Helena Parish
1-1 North Helena Fire Station
1-2 North Helena Fire Station
2-1 S. 2nd Ward Fire Station
2-2 Courthouse Square, Drivers License Building
3-1 District 4 Fire Station
3-2 Highway 16 Voting Booth
3-3 District 4 Fire Station
4-1 Highway 16 Voting Booth
4-2 Montpelier Fire Station
5-1 Hillsdale Fire Station
5-2 Hillsdale Fire Station
6-1 Highway 441 Voting Booth
6-2 Old Woodland School site
1 Kentwood Junior High
2 Kentwood High Lunchroom
6 Tangipahoa City Hall
11 Roseland Elementary
15 Agriculture Building
16 Agriculture Building
17 Amite City Hall
18 Amite City Hall
26 Independence Middle
27A Independence City Hall
43 New Hammond Fire Station No. 2
46 Michael J. Kenney Recreation Center
47 Michael J. Kenney Recreation Center
48 New Hammond Fire Station No. 3
49 Hammond City Council Annex
101 Kentwood Junior High
103 Kentwood High Lunchroom
105 Tangipahoa City Hall
107 Roseland Elementary
109 Amite Library
109A Roseland Elementary
111 Amite Library
111A Independence Middle
115B Independence Middle
119 New Independence Fire Station
123 Natalbany Middle
129 New Hammond Fire Station No. 2
129A Natalbany Middle