Lieutenant governor candidate Billy Nungesser was stumped Thursday when incumbent Jay Dardenne asked him to describe the flow of tourism funding in Louisiana’s budget and what six agencies the office they are vying for oversees.
The series of exchanges came in a debate in which the candidates could ask each other questions and in which Dardenne tried to show he has more experience and understanding of the office.
“I don’t have access to all of the information that you do,” Nungesser told Dardenne, saying Dardenne has been in office for many months.
“Tell us what the six agencies are that you’re going to be running if you’re elected lieutenant governor?” Dardenne asked Nungesser, president of Plaquemines Parish.
Nungesser replied, “All of the tourism agencies. I don’t have them all in front of me, and I can’t remember every one of them. It’s anything to do with tourism.”
“The job is much more than tourism,” said Dardenne, a former state senator from Baton Rouge who’s been lieutenant governor for less than a year.
Besides being second in line to the governor, Louisiana’s lieutenant oversees the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, which manages museums, state parks, the state library and a book festival. The official also serves as the state’s top promoter, to market and advertise Louisiana.
Nungesser criticized Dardenne for continuing to do outside work both as a lawyer and a speech-giver on Louisiana history. He said Dardenne should focus entirely on the job he was elected to do.
He also questioned where Dardenne was when the state was responding to four hurricanes since 2005 and last year’s massive oil spill.
“As an elected official of this state, did you not feel it was your job or some part of your job to be down there and supporting the parishes that were so devastated by the hurricanes and the oil spill?,” Nungesser asked.
Dardenne replied, “Sometimes the people elect individuals who don’t always run to find a TV camera to say things about what they’re doing. What I do in response to crises is work.” He said he coordinated efforts in Baton Rouge for those displaced by the hurricanes.
Nungesser said he rescued 30 people after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, when he wasn’t in public office and never saw an elected official during the time.
Thursday’s debate was hosted by the League of Women Voters and WBRZ-TV in Baton Rouge.
Dardenne and Nungesser, both Republicans, are the only two candidates for the Oct. 22 election. No Democrats signed up for the race.
The two men disagreed on the scope of the lieutenant governor’s office.
Nungesser said it should be broadened to include more work on economic development and coastal restoration, areas that currently fall in the hands of gubernatorial appointees.
“In these tough times, if it was just going to be tourism, I’d be for abolishing it,” Nungesser said of the lieutenant governor’s office.
Dardenne said the office has a multimillion-dollar budget and serves an important role already.
The race has been laden with attack ads and accusations. Dardenne has called Nungesser a scandal-ridden politician, while Nungesser pitches himself as a change to the politics of old and describes Dardenne as a career politician.
Copyright 2011 The Associated Press