The three candidates in the District 88 House of Representatives race see road improvements as the single greatest need in the district and agree that raising taxes is not the way to balance the state’s budget.

Gary J. Lacombe, Coral “C.J” Lambert and Johnny Berthelot are running for the seat that was left open after incumbent M.J. “Mert” Smiley decided to run for Ascension Parish assessor.

The district, which was redrawn earlier this year to reflect 2010 U.S. census changes, includes parts of Ascension Parish’s east bank.

Berthelot identified traffic congestion and lack of needed capacity on highways in the district as his top issues.

He said he has the political experience to ensure that state-backed road improvements projects already planned “do not get pushed to the back burner.”

Lacombe said he favors wider shoulders on area roads and intersection improvements throughout the district.

Lambert said funding must be found to improve roads in the district.

When it comes to balancing the state’s budget, the candidates call for cutting spending and not raising taxes.

Lacombe said the state must “live within our means,” by understanding where tax money is being spent and “sharpen the priority list of expenditures that quantifies a benefit with each item.”

Lambert called for a careful review of state agencies that are not “useful enough to justify their existence” and an end to abuse of social programs. Lambert also supports increasing collection of fines and easing restrictions on small business.

Lambert said the state could save money by cutting benefits to substance abusers and “to those who have never paid into the system.”

Berthelot said the state must cut programs that are not working and fully fund those that are successful. He pointed to his record of supporting budget cuts while mayor of Gonzales.

The candidates did not name specific programs they would cut.

All three candidates said education is the key to addressing poverty in Louisiana.

Lambert said he would support investing in the state’s community college system, job training programs and trade schools.

Lacombe called for supporting literacy and job skills programs. “We must continue to pursue excellence for all students,” Lacombe said. “Our ability to compete in a global economy will depend on our innovation capabilities.”

Berthelot calls for revamping early childhood education programs by funding the ones that work. He also said the state must emphasize reading, as “it is the key to understanding.”

The three offer different routes to promoting economic growth.

Lacombe favors working to improve literacy and job skills and pursuing excellence for all students. He said he supports a collaboration with the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry and other business associations to promote investment incentives, workforce development incentives that build skills and recapitalization to drive business growth.

Berthelot said the state must find innovative ways to enhance small businesses. Berthelot wants to encourage additions and expansion by reducing taxes and costs of doing business.

Lambert said developing the state’s natural resources is the key to economic growth. He suggested that manufacturing plants use hardwood timber that falls during storms to build furniture and asserted that the state should “go full speed in developing our oil and natural gas to help people go back to work.”

JOHN A. ‘JOHNNY’ BERTHELOT

Republican, Gonzales.

59, retired mayor and immediate past chairman of the board of the Ascension Economic Development Corp.

EDUCATION: Graduate, East Ascension High School, and completed LSU Continuing Education.

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: Gonzales City Council member and mayor.

GARY J. LACOMBE

Democrat, Gonzales.

52, communications manager for an international petrochemical company.

EDUCATION: B.S. and M.S., Louisiana Tech University.

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: 2008 Gonzales City Council candidate.

CORAL ‘C.J.’ LAMBERT

Republican, Gonzales.

65, former teacher, coach and small- business owner and retired police officer.

EDUCATION: B.S., SLU.

POLITICAL EXPERIENCE: None.

WHERE TO VOTE

Ward/Precinct and location

Ascension Parish

4 Galvez Middle

5A Galvez Middle

5B Galvez Middle

12 Galvez Lake Fire Dept.

13 Galvez Lake Fire Dept.

14 Lake Primary

15 Lake Primary

18 Central Middle

21 Central Middle

22 St. Amant High

23 Fire District No. 1 Training Facility

24 Dept. of Public Works Auditorium

25 Dept. of Public Works Auditorium

26 St. Amant High

27 St. Amant Elementary

28 Gonzales Primary

30 American Legion Hall Post 81

31 East Ascension High

32 East Ascension High

33 Regions Hank

34 Sorrento Town Hall

41 Lake Primary

43 Faith Academy

58 Gonzales City Hall

70 Galvez Branch Library

75 American Legion Hall Post 81