Whenever he goes to the grocery store or brings his daughters to dance classes, former Louisiana State Rep. John LaBruzzo of Metairie says he hears the same question: When are you getting back into politics?
The answer these days has been: Quite possibly for the Oct. 24 primary election for a Metairie-based seat on the Jefferson Parish Council that won’t have an incumbent defending it.
“If I run, it’s to get back in service — I have a calling to serve, and a lot of people have asked me because they like my values,” said LaBruzzo, 44, a Republican who expects to make a decision about whether to enter the race before the end of April. “They want someone to represent them, whether it’s in Baton Rouge or Jefferson Parish.”
There isn’t much known about the field that will compete for the District 5 seat LaBruzzo said he is eyeing. Cynthia Lee-Sheng is term-limited from seeking re-election as that district’s representative, and she has said she will target one of two at-large seats on the Parish Council in the fall.
No one as of Monday had formally declared themselves as a candidate to succeed Lee-Sheng in District 5. However, there’s intense speculation that potential candidates for that seat are Jennifer Van Vrancken Dwyer and Mike Thomas.
Dwyer is the chief operating officer for Parish President John Young, who will forego a second term in that office and attempt to become the state’s next lieutenant governor. Thomas, a lawyer, served on the council as an interim appointee from April 2011 to January 2012; and he was a chief aide to former at-large Councilman Tom Capella, now the parish’s assessor.
Thomas has confirmed his interest in the seat. Dwyer has neither confirmed nor denied it.
Regardless of who makes up the final field for District 5, LaBruzzo believes he’d be someone with whom to be reckoned.
“There’s no political machine backing me, but I have name recognition,” said LaBruzzo, who according to a report filed in February had about $14,462 in his campaign finance account. “And that is important.”
Many people will remember LaBruzzo for proposing in 2008 to pay women receiving welfare $1,000 if they voluntarily chose to be sterilized. In an ensuing backlash, LaBruzzo was accused of being an advocate for eugenics, and he was stripped of his position as the vice chairman of the House Health and Welfare Committee.
LaBruzzo made headlines as well by voting to raise lawmakers’ base pay but then calling for Gov. Bobby Jindal to veto the measure. He also fought to pass legislation that would require random drug testing of welfare recipients who get cash benefits.
Despite the controversy generated by his proposed legislation to drug test certain welfare recipients, LaBruzzo said he was “not embarrassed by that bill.”
“I would introduce that bill tomorrow,” he said.
LaBruzzo noted that his remarks involving voluntary tubal ligation never went beyond an informal conversation that he said was blown out of proportion. Medicaid in Louisiana already covers voluntary sterilization for both men and women; LaBruzzo said the type of program he had spoken of ran the risk of being redundant if implemented.
After serving two terms in the state House, LaBruzzo lost a primary election in 2011 to Nick Lorusso, a Republican from New Orleans’ Lakeview neighborhood. That election occurred after Lorusso’s New Orleans-based and LaBruzzo’s Metairie-based districts were combined into one new one.
LaBruzzo said the redistricting cost him his seat, and he alleged it was done as part of a plot to get former State Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Terrytown, Democratic support in New Orleans when Tucker unsuccessfully ran for Secretary of State in 2011.
Citing the fact that he won 61 percent of the votes cast in Metairie during his election against Lorusso, LaBruzzo said, “My people wanted me back.”
Lorusso captured 70 percent of the vote in New Orleans to defeat LaBruzzo by a margin of 57 percent to 43 percent overall.
In a 2005 special election, LaBruzzo ran for the state senate, but he finished fifth during the primary, capturing almost 10 percent of the vote.