Former state lawmaker John LaBruzzo will challenge state Sen. Conrad Appel, foregoes previously announced Jefferson Parish Council run _lowres

Advocate Staff Photo by Arthur D. Lauck -- Former state Rep. John LaBruzzo, R- Metairie, smiles Wednesday June 2, 2010.

Instead of running for a Metairie-based Jefferson Parish Council seat, former Louisiana lawmaker John LaBruzzo filed to qualify Thursday afternoon to challenge state Sen. Conrad Appel during the Oct. 24 primary.

LaBruzzo held a press conference at 3 p.m. after going to the parish government building in Gretna to sign up for the State Senate District 9 race, about an hour before the qualifying period for the fall elections expired.

LaBruzzo had previously indicated that he would most likely sign up to run for Parish Council District 5, which won’t have an incumbent defending it because Councilwoman Cynthia Lee-Sheng is seeking an at-large seat. He had even started campaigning to succeed Lee-Sheng, but he said Thursday that almost all of the potential voters he had interacted with in recent months urged him to run for the state Senate for two main reasons that he couldn’t address on the Jefferson Parish Council.

One of those reasons, LaBruzzo said, is that Appel — the Metairie Republican chairing the Senate Education committee — has been a vocal proponent of the Common Core schooling standards, which many locals oppose. LaBruzzo, also a Republican, said on Thursday that he would push to repeal Common Core.

“For every bill that’s tried to repeal Common Core, there has been one major opponent: Conrad Appel,” said LaBruzzo, a former member of the state House of Representatives. “He’s the goalie for Common Core.”

LaBruzzo said the other big reason he decided to target Appel’s seat was because he wanted to once again try to pass legislation he had previously proposed that would require random drug tests of welfare recipients getting cash benefits.

Several other states have passed legislation that’s essentially the same as the one the ultra-conservative LaBruzzo continually authored when he was a member of the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2004 to 2012. But in Louisiana, more than once, LaBruzzo’s welfare drug-testing proposal died in the Senate after clearing the House.

“As a senator, I am confident I would be able to pass it,” LaBruzzo said.

He also vowed to increase penalties for violent criminals and to make confederate monuments in New Orleans historical landmarks “so that they can’t be attacked politically.”

LaBruzzo left the House after losing an election to Nick Lorusso of New Orleans. LaBruzzo and Lorusso — also a Republican — ran against each other after their respective Metairie- and Lakeview-based districts were folded into one.

Though he lost to Lorusso by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent, LaBruzzo earned 61 percent of the votes cast in the general area that had comprised his former district, signaling his popularity there.

Aside from Appel, LaBruzzo joins “other” party candidate Scott Songy of Metairie in the race for Senate District 9, which mostly encompasses suburban Jefferson Parish.

Lee-Sheng is not seeking her District 5 Parish Council seat again due to term limits, but she is eligible to run at-large.

Two candidates have signed up to succeed her in District 5: Mike Thomas, a former interim parish councilman; and Jennifer Van Vrancken, who used to be the chief operating officer in the administration of Parish President John Young, a candidate for lieutenant governor.