Taryn Branson (left) and Scott McKnight (right)

Taryn Branson (left) and Scott McKnight (right)

Insurance businessman Scott McKnight and lawyer Taryn Branson will square off in the Nov. 16 runoff for the state House District 68 seat that term-limited Rep. Steve Carter, R-Baton Rouge, has held since 2007.

McKnight, a 38-year-old Republican, and Branson, a 34-year-old Democrat, emerged from a five-candidate field in the October primary, with McKnight leading with 33% of the vote followed by Branson with 24%.

Though McKnight and Branson haven't yet met over the course of their campaigns, both emphasized their community involvement and dedication to the constituents of the district as they approach the runoff.

McKnight is director of strategic business development for BXS Insurance, formerly Wright & Percy Insurance, the family business, and is co-owner of RapidFire Protection and Superior Ford. He's also a reserve East Baton Rouge Parish sheriff's deputy.

Branson is a lawyer and former teacher who served for two years as a consultant to the Office of Women's Policy in Gov. John Bel Edwards' administration.

McKnight, who labels himself a conservative, said he has lived his entire life in District 68 and cares deeply about it. He said his record of getting things done in business and philanthropy highlights his dedication to community and service, and his ability to deliver results.

“This, for me, is the next step in being able to improve our community and our state,” McKnight said. “And make it a better place for ourselves, our kids, our grandkids and the future.”

His goal is to improve the economic climate in the state to create a better environment for business growth, which he hopes will produce greater opportunities for his constituents.

“At the end of the day, this is about taking what I believe to be a great city and a great state and making it better,” McKnight said. “Nobody should be forced to move somewhere else to get a good education, or a great job and build a great career and be able to raise their family.”

Branson describes herself as a moderate Democrat and has pledged to listen to voters to put their interests above partisan politics. She said she believes her presence in the community, meeting voters face-to-face, has helped her garner support.

“My team and I have run a positive, non-negative campaign,” Branson said. “We have worked really well to connect with voters who even normally don’t vote Democrat.”

With a background in teaching, Branson said she envisions an educational system where early childhood education is made a priority and fully funded; where parents of K-12 students have the option to send their children to a public, private or charter school that serves the needs of their children; and where college students aren't forced to pay higher tuition costs due to funding cuts to higher education.

“A vote for me means a vote for them. It means a vote for their family,” Branson said. “I will vote on policies that make sure Louisiana people and families are supported and taken care of.”

Interstate 10 runs the length of House District 68, which extends from Perkins and Highland roads on one end to LSU on the other. The district is generally south of Jefferson Highway and north of Perkins.

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SCOTT MCKNIGHT

AGE: 38

RESIDES: Born in Baton Rouge; resides in Jefferson Place Bocage

EDUCATION: Graduated from University High School; bachelor’s degree in General Studies from LSU; master’s in business administration from LSU

PROFESSIONAL: Insurance businessman; reserve East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office deputy

POLITICAL: Republican; member of Republican State Central Committee

WEBSITE: www.mcknightforla.com

TARYN C. BRANSON

AGE: 34

RESIDES: Born in West Monroe; moved to Baton Rouge in 2011; lives on Jefferson Highway near Bocage

EDUCATION: Graduated from West Monroe High School; bachelor’s degrees in political science and Spanish from Louisiana Tech University; master’s in criminal justice from the University of Louisiana at Monroe; juris doctorate from Southern University Law Center

PROFESSIONAL: Lawyer; former educator

POLITICAL: Democrat

WEBSITE: www.electtarynbranson.com

Email Jacqueline DeRobertis at jderobertis@theadvocate.com