The three candidates vying for the House District 58 seat cited improving infrastructure and education, filling new industrial jobs with local residents and working to improve the state’s budget woes as key issues for this election.
Incumbent State Rep. Ed Price of Gonzales faces challenges from political newcomers Miguel Aubert of Vacherie and Nathaniel Rapp Jr. of Darrow in the Oct. 24 primary election. All three are Democrats.
The district encompasses portions of Ascension, Iberville and St. James parishes.
“While I feel we’ve made strides during my first four years in office, there’s a lot left to be done to help this district,” Price said.
Aubert said he wants to continue the work of his father, former State Rep. Elton Aubert, who was ousted by Price in the 2011 election after one term in office.
“I want to continue the positive work that my father started,” Aubert said. “He held the position for four years, and I am running on the same progressive platform that he used to become legislator of the year.”
Rapp said he wants to be a voice for his constituents.
“My vision is to allow the citizens of District 58 to have a voice in the decisions that will affect them,” he said. “I’m not running for office — I’m running for the people. It’s time for a new generation of leaders to step up and make the tough choices.”
The candidates were largely on the same page about certain key issues. Each supports expanding Medicaid through the Affordable Care Act. All want to see improved infrastructure in the parishes along the Mississippi River. None wanted to raise taxes, saying the hard budget choices expected for the next Legislature should begin with taking a look at how money is currently being spent.
One of the issues for candidates is how to get local residents into jobs in the chemical industry that proliferates near the river.
Aubert said that he wants to reignite his father’s efforts to encourage industry to hire locals for new jobs.
“I want to form a coalition with local governments to put pressure on these companies to have them hire more local workers,” he said.
Rapp also said that he would work to ensure that local residents would be considered for the newly created jobs.
“With all the industry coming in to the district, I want to work hand-in-hand with the leaders in industry to hire more local people,” he said.
Price, a retired BASF supervisor, said that while industry has grown and created new jobs in the district, he feels the focus needs to be on preparing residents for these positions through education. He cited efforts during the last legislative session to pass a bill aligning the Jump Start program with area high schools, vocational schools and community colleges.
“A lot of kids don’t understand they can get a scholarship and study things like process technology, pipe-fitting, instrumentation and more,” he said. “They can make a very decent living doing those kind of jobs.”
The candidates each said they feel that controversial Common Core standards implemented by the state must be addressed.
“All kids are not on the same learning level,” said Rapp, who heads his own nonprofit group aimed at assisting area youth. “It’s being proven that Common Core is not working in Louisiana. We have to work together to revamp Common Core to make it successful.”
Aubert said he feels his views on Common Core standards set him apart from his opponents.
“I support legislation that bridges the gap between Common Core and teacher accountability in the classroom,” he said. “I want to get as much money to the classroom as possible to prepare our students.”
A former longtime member and president of the Ascension Parish School Board, Price said he plans to work closely with a revamped state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to address K-12 education policy issues, such as Common Core standards.
“I believe that those policies need to come from BESE, not from us, and we need to take it from that point,” he said.
Price said that a report coming in early 2016 on Common Core’s effectiveness will be pivotal in deciding its fate in Louisiana.
“The implementation of Common Core went sour, but slowing this thing down some will help to see any difference in how it’s going,” he said. “I have no doubt that some changes will likely be made, but more rigorous standards have to remain.”
Each of the candidates said that tackling the state’s budget woes will take a collective effort from all sides of state government. None of the candidates supported instituting new taxes as a means of fixing budget holes. Instead, they each vowed to first work with fellow legislators in combing through the state budget to see what programs could be considered for possible cuts.
“There have been people who work state jobs telling me that their budget’s been cut so bad, they have to bring their own toilet paper to work,” Aubert said. “As long as people are willing to work across party lines, I believe we can come together to see where we’re at in our budget and in each department,” Aubert said.
Price said his experience working with governmental budgets is something necessary for the state representative position.
“In my 27 years on the Ascension Parish School Board, we always ended with a balanced budget,” he said. “People understand that we need someone with experience at the Capitol to ensure our budget can be fixed,” he said.
“We’re robbing Peter to pay Paul right now,” Rapp said of the state budget. “We have to work on this budget without making promises. I want to deal strictly with facts.”
Both Aubert and Rapp said they feel the district needs to be represented by someone who is fighting for its citizens in the Legislature, while also being visible in the community.
“I want to be a recognized voice for the people,” Aubert said. “A lot of people in the district have told me they don’t even know who our representative is. I want to change that by being visible in the community. People want to hold their representative responsible. Our current representative is not meeting the people.”
Rapp said he does not see himself as running for an office, but running to be a representative of the citizens of District 58.
“My goal is to be a public servant,” he said. “I will work for the people. Through my foundation, I work with young people on a daily basis. I also volunteer at nursing homes, so I see and hear from all parts of the spectrum.”
Price said he feels that devoting himself to the position on a full-time basis gives him an advantage over his opponents.
“I’ve dedicated myself to the people of District 58,” he said. “I retired from my career at BASF and became a full-time legislator. Because of this, I’m available. I make the meetings. That’s a big asset to have in state government. I spend a lot of time there, but I am, first and foremost, a full-time representative for this district. I feel my voting record is proof of that.”