Acadiana's 48th House District is largely made up of working class families living in suburban homes, but work has been harder to come by in recent years because of a sluggish economy. That's been a key issue for the four candidates seeking to represent the district in the Oct. 12 election.
The district stretches across Lafayette, Iberia and St. Martin parishes and includes the cities of Youngsville, Broussard, New Iberia, Cade, St. Martinville and Loreauville. It's an oddly shaped district that was carved out to make way for the adjacent majority-minority 96th District following Hurricane Katrina.
The racial makeup of District 48 is 75% white, 15% black and 10% other, according to Census data.
It's slightly more affluent than the state average with a median household income of $61,434 per year; still, 14.3% of the district's residents live in poverty. Louisiana's median household income is about $47,000, with about 20% living in poverty.
Although the district isn't as poverty-stricken as other parts of the state, its residents have experienced higher levels of unemployment in recent years because of the downturn in the oilfield. Getting people back to work has been the primary focus for the four newcomers vying for Acadiana's 48th District seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives.
"Beau" Beaullieu, Dana Dugas, Ricky Gonsoulin and David Levy are running for the seat held by Taylor Barras, a Republican who was first elected to the position in 2007. Barras is term-limited and cannot seek re-election.
Beaullieu, Dugas and Gonsoulin are Republicans. Levy is a Democrat.
Here's a closer look at the candidates.
Beaullieu, 44, said his experience as a business owner and community activist would be an asset to the Legislature.
He has worked with employers and employees across south Louisiana through his financial planning business, Cosource Financial Group. He has also been involved in cultural, philanthropic, business and religious groups.
"My business experience combined with my servant leadership is what makes me qualified," Beaullieu said.
The New Iberia resident said his top three priorities are "jobs, jobs and more jobs."
If elected, Beaullieu said he would bring back jobs to the area through tax reform, budget reform and legal reform.
Beaullieu holds a bachelor's degree in finance from LSU and a master's of business administration from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
He is married with four children. He said his children are a primary reason he's running for public office.
"For my entire life, I've heard politicians in Baton Rouge talking about out-migration and reversing the trends of out-migration," Beaullieu said. "Now that I have four kids — two in college and two in high school — the thought of my kids leaving Acadiana or Louisiana in search of greener pastures doesn't sit well with me. I'm going to create a better district and Louisiana so others have better opportunities to succeed."
Dugas, 57, said he understands well the importance of being accountable with tax dollars as the president of the Iberia Parish School Board.
He's a building contractor by trade and owns a number of businesses, including Dana Dugas Affordable Homes, Dugas Rental Properties, Loreauville Racing Stables, Great Eight Racing Stables and Johnny's Pizza House in St. Martinville. In addition to serving his second term as president of the school board, Dugas is involved in building, planning and zoning, business, philanthropic and religious groups.
"I bring a lot of leadership and experience, but also a lot of common sense," Dugas said.
The Loreauville native and New Iberia resident said his top three priorities are improving the economy, drainage and education.
If elected, Dugas said he would work to make Louisiana a more business-friendly state, partner with parishes across the state to develop a master drainage plan, and offer more skills-based learning opportunities for teens and inmates.
Dugas is a graduate of Loreauville High School.
He is married with three grown children and five grandchildren. He is a self-described "good old country boy" who hopes to bring a common-sense approach to the Legislature.
"I want to represent the people, the voters of District 48," Dugas said. "And I want to do that by getting Louisiana back working again. The majority of people in Louisiana are working people, and somebody needs to represent the working people."
Gonsoulin, 53, said he's frustrated by special sessions to address the state's budget problems and hopes to use his experience as the finance chairman of the Iberia Parish Council to create a balanced budget.
He's a fifth-generation sugarcane farmer who owns Gonsoulin Farms and rental properties in Iberia Parish. In addition to serving as finance chairman in his second term on the Iberia Parish Council, Gonsoulin is involved in farming, business, sporting, philanthropic and religious groups.
"It's easy to raise the taxes. That's one of the easiest things to do. It takes guts to make cuts," Gonsoulin said.
The New Iberia resident said his top three priorities are tort reform, tax reduction and infrastructure improvement.
If elected, Gonsoulin said he would support legislation to reduce frivolous lawsuits, lower severance and franchise taxes, and improve existing infrastructure to attract new businesses to Louisiana.
Gonsoulin is a graduate of UL and the LSU AgCenter's Agricultural Leadership Development Program.
He is married with three children and two grandchildren. He said he plans to bring his work ethic to the Legislature to represent District 48.
"As farmers, my family goes to work every day, and if we don't, our lights don't come on," Gonsoulin said. "We're willing to get our hands dirty, and I don't think there's enough people in Baton Rouge willing to get their hands dirty. I just want to let the people know they'll get a hardworking individual with a track record of getting the job done if I'm elected, and that's what we need in Baton Rouge."
Levy, 55, said he wants to focus on providing District 48 with fundamental services, not jobs, so its citizens can create opportunities — just as he has done through his oilfield company.
He's a petroleum and mechanical engineer who owns a design and manufacturing oilfield company called Petrotechnologies. He also has more than 10 oilfield patents, is an instrument-rated private pilot, and is a paraplegic after suffering a spinal cord injury during a 2013 motocross accident.
"I've run my own business for 23 years in the oilfield, and I'm not looking for tax exemptions," Levy said.
The Bunkie native and New Iberia resident said his top three priorities are to repair the roads and infrastructure, fund the public school systems and redo the district map so people are fairly represented.
If elected, Levy said he would not support tax incentives for businesses because that revenue should be supporting public services to improve the lives of all citizens, not just some.
Levy holds bachelor's degrees in petroleum and mechanical engineering from LSU.
He is single and has a teenage daughter. He said he's running for the position because government has become "so distorted" in recent years.
"We've lost the idea of government's purpose," Levy said. "The purpose of government isn't to provide jobs. It's to collect revenue through taxes and provide services to the citizens. And that's done through maintaining highways; providing good education, healthcare and transportation. When that's done, the citizens will be able to create. That means we can build businesses that will employ people."