The state Senate District 24 race pits incumbent Elbert Guillory against political newcomer Kelly Scott and Opelousas Mayor Don Cravins Sr., who held the District 24 seat for 15 years before his mayoral election.
The candidates agree on many of the big issues — education is a critical need in the district, they say, and taxes are not the answer to balancing the budget — but each offers a nuanced approach to growing the economy and trying to provide better government services within the constraints of a tight budget.
Guillory said the key to economic growth in Louisiana is reducing the tax rate for businesses.
“Louisiana is one of the highest, if not the single highest state for taxation on business,” Guillory said. “Because we have such an anti-business climate in Louisiana, it’s not surprising that businesses are reluctant to come to Louisiana.”
Guillory also spoke of the need for an education system that turns out job-ready workers, but Cravins said the education system is the most critical factor, more so than tax breaks or other economic incentives for businesses.
Cravins said incentives can be useful economic development tools, “but what companies are looking for beyond all that is to look at an educated populace.”
Cravins said that “if we want to create an instant economic development driver, it would be to create a first-rate education system.”
Scott also said the state needs to invest in an educated workforce, and he stressed the need to build and maintain infrastructure that makes the state more attractive to businesses, including roads, railways and high-speed Internet lines.
“Science and technology will be the driving force behind new jobs in this state,” Scott said.
As for how to balance the budget and fund an improved education system, all three candidates said new taxes are not the answer at this time.
Scott said he would consider trying to lower taxes for the average working family, but he would not be opposed to targeted fee increases if needed to support specific services or programs.
“These are things that we can increase that people are directly benefiting from,” Scott said of fees.
Scott said any needed cuts to balance the state budget should be done through “an open-minded, bipartisan approach,” but education and health care should take priority over other areas of the budget.
Cravins said he believes there is money to be saved by giving local school boards more control over state education dollars and trimming what he said is an education system top-heavy with administrators at both the state and local levels.
“I think we are spending far too much on the bureaucracy and far too little on students,” Cravins said.
Cravins said he sees savings in collaborations between the state government, federal government and private health-care companies to provide greater access to basic health care in rural areas, thus reducing the number of residents who depend on the emergency room for basic health care.
“That is the most expensive care,” Cravins said. “We could stop a lot of the problems at the source.”
Guillory said he sees potential health-care savings by allowing the state more control in general over federal health-care dollars.
“We could deliver health care at a much cheaper rate and more effectively than the federal government does,” Guillory said.
The incumbent senator also said he believes higher education funding should be more focused to get a bigger return for each dollar spent.
“We have a system that is not only bloated but very duplicative. We can’t afford to have a four-year university on every corner,” Guillory said.
DONALD ‘DON’ CRAVINS
63, insurance agent, cattleman.
EDUCATION: B.A., Southern University.
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: State senator, mayor of Opelousas.
ELBERT LEE GUILLORY
EDUCATION: B.A., Norfolk State University; J.D.,
POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: State
representative, state senator.
KELLY J. SCOTT
31, analyst for BP Biofuels.
EDUCATION: B.S., LSU.
WHERE TO VOTE
Ward/Precinct and location
2Y Carencro Middle Gym - West
2Z Carencro Middle Gym - West
4Y Carencro Middle - Cafeteria
4Z Carencro Middle - Cafeteria
5 Carencro Heights Elementary
6 Carencro Middle Gym - West
7 Carencro Heights Elementary
9 Ossun Elementary
10 J. Wallace James School
11 Moss Street Fire Station No. 9
12 Acadian Middle
13 Acadian Middle
14 Northside High
15 Northside High
16 Northside High
17 Alice Boucher School
18 Alice Boucher School
19 Cooper Drive Fire Station
20 Northside High
21 J.W. Faulk Elementary
22 Sheriff’s Training at St. Antoine
23 Sheriff’s Training at St. Antoine
24 J. Wallace James School
25 Scott City Hall
50 Sheriff’s Training at St. Antoine
51 Sheriff’s Training at St. Antoine
52 N.P. Moss Annex
53 N.P. Moss Annex
54 Domingue Recreation Center
55 Teurlings High Gym Lobby
56 Domingue Recreation Center
57 Mudd Avenue Fire Station
58 W.A. LeRosen Alternative School
59 Lafayette Parish School Board Office
61 W.A. LeRosen Alternative School
62 W.A. LeRosen Alternative School
63 Northside High
64A Carencro High
64B Carencro High
68 Lafayette Consolidated Governmental Building
St. Landry Parish
1-1 North Elementary
1-2 St. Landry Public Service Center
1-2A St. Landry Public Service Center
1-3 Christ the King Cafeteria
1-3A Christ the King Cafeteria
1-4 Opelousas Fire Substation No. 3
1-4A Opelousas Fire Substation No. 3
1-6 Opelousas Police Association Building
1-6A Opelousas Police Association Building
1-7 North Elementary
1-8 Opelousas Junior High
1-9 South Street Elementary
1-10 Park Vista Elementary
1-10A Park Vista Elementary
1-11 CASA/Veterans Building
1-13 Opelousas Junior High
1-14 Grolee Street Elementary
1-14A Grolee Street Elementary
1-15 Pupil Appraisal Center
1-15A Pupil Appraisal Center
1-16 Louis Butler Sr. Community Center
1-17 Opelousas Senior High
1-18 East Junior High
1-20 Louis Butler Sr. Community Center
1-21 Grolee Street Elementary
1-22 Southwest Neighborhood Service Center
1-23 Southwest Elementary
1-25 Williams Insurance Company
1-26 Ft. Hamilton/Coteau Substation
1-26A Ft. Hamilton/Coteau Substation
1-28 IFBS Lodge
1-28A IFBS Lodge
1-29 Southwest Elementary
2-1 Grand Coteau Fire Hall
2-4Y Sunset Elementary
2-4Z Sunset Elementary
3-2 Fire District No. 5 Station
3-2A Fire District No. 5 Station
3-4 American Legion Hall
3-6 Leonville Town Hall
4-2 Melville Civic Center
4-3 Port Barre High
4-4 Palmetto Fire Hall
4-6 Palmetto Fire Hall
4-8 Morrow Community Center
4-9 Chatman’s Store
4-10 North Central High
4-11 Palmetto Fire Hall
4-12A Port Barre Elementary
5-3 Plaisance Elementary
5-6 Washington Elementary
6-1 Fire District No. 6 Station
6-1A Fire District No. 6 Station
6-3 Lawtell Elementary
6-3A Lawtell Elementary
6-4 St. Anne Parish Hall
6-10 Amy Fire Substation
6-11A Lawtell Elementary
6-15 Southeast Community Center
6-16 East Elementary St. Martin Parish
6-2A Parish Governmental Building
7-1 Breaux Bridge Volunteer Fire Dept. Substation
7-3 Breaux Bridge Elementary Gym