Gov. Bobby Jindal won’t participate in a candidate forum hosted by a teachers’ union that recently opposed one of his key education initiatives.
Ashley Davis, spokeswoman for the Louisiana Association of Educators, said Wednesday that the nine other candidates in the governor’s race have agreed to participate in the debate.
The debate, which will focus on education and revenue, is scheduled for 7 p.m. wednesday at the Bo Campbell Auditorium in the Cox Communications Academic Center on the LSU campus.
Jindal referenced past disputes with the Louisiana Association of Educators when asked about the debate at a news conference on school scores.
The LAE represents about 20,000 teachers and other school personnel.
“It doesn’t surprise folks I don’t always agree with the LAE,” the governor said Wednesday afternoon. “I don’t think they’ve ever endorsed me any time I’ve run. That’s OK — still happy to sit down and talk with them.”
The LAE is critical of a Jindal-backed law that will link annual teacher evaluations in part to student achievement.
Timmy Teepell, the governor’s campaign advisor, said the debate will not have a wide enough audience to warrant the governor’s participation.
“Yep, we declined. Because it is not televised statewide, the people of Louisiana won’t see it,” Teepell wrote in an email.
Teepell recently expressed disappointment through Twitter that WWL-TV in New Orleans is not holding a gubernatorial debate. He said earlier that he encouraged WWL-TV to allow the governor to debate a field of little-known candidates.
Nine people are running against the governor in the Oct. 22 primary: Democrats Cary Deaton, Tara Hollis, “Niki Bird” Papazoglakis and Ivo “Trey” Roberts, Libertarians Scott Lewis and David Blanchard, Leonard “Lenny” Bollingham, Ron Ceasar and William Robert “Bob” Lang, who do not have a party affiliation.
None is well-financed or well-known, giving the governor little opposition to his re-election bid.
The LAE debate may be the only one in the governor’s race.
Jindal said Wednesday afternoon at his news conference that Teepell had not seen the LAE’s invitation.
“We’ll be happy to look at the invitation,” the governor said.
Davis said after the news conference that Jindal’s executive assistant, Kelley McCormick, had already declined on the governor’s behalf.
The governor’s press secretary, Kyle Plotkin, blamed the confusion on the LAE approaching Jindal’s state office, rather than his campaign office.
Papazoglakis said Jindal does not want to defend a record that includes opposing a cigarette tax increase and supporting college tuition hikes.
“His performance has been atrocious. The numbers speak for themselves,” she said.
Papazoglakis said she still will participate to let voters know there are other choices.
“He’s cowardly,” Deaton said.
He said Jindal is backpedaling on agreeing to debate even minor candidates in the governor’s race.
Deaton said a Houma television station wanted to host a debate but nixed the idea after speaking to the governor’s staff.