Though they may not have much money and are not very well known, five candidates paid roughly a grand to put their names on the Oct. 24 ballot for governor along with the four major contenders.
However, they take offense at being called “minor” candidates.
A couple of them have run before.
One is the lawyer who successfully forced the City of New Orleans in the mid-1990s to re-erect the Liberty Monument, which briefly made a bitter appearance in this year’s campaign. Another owns a famous barbecue joint in Tangipahoa Parish. Another is a Baptist minister with business consulting business.
And one promises to live stream every minute of the day in the Governor’s Office.
None of the five have much money.
Still, Beryl Billiot, No Party-Kentwood; Cary Deaton, D-Metairie; J.W. Odom, No Party-Natchitoches; Eric Paul Orgeron, Other-River Ridge; and S.L. Simpson, D-Shreveport all see themselves as governor.
They have attracted far less attention than the four, well-funded “major” candidates: Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle, R-Breaux Bridge; Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, R-Baton Rouge; state Rep. John Bel Edwards, D-Amite; and U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-Metairie.
“Populist candidates” have a long history in Louisiana.
Secretary of State Tom Schedler says the state’s open primary system, which pits all comers regardless of party, plays a role. Closed party caucuses and closed party primaries that other states use, limits the number of candidates who make to a ballot. That said, he also surmises it may just be Louisiana’s culture of non-conformity and love of politics, but that’s difficult to measure.
All gubernatorial candidates pay a fee of $750. If they are running as a Democrat or Republican, they pay an additional $375 for a total of $1,125.
No minor candidates have ever had a Cinderella ending and few make even the slightest dent in the polls.
In the 2003 gubernatorial election, the 11 minor candidates polled 48,140 votes – or about 3 percent of the 1.39 million cast.
The 2011 election should have been the apex for unknown contestants because Louisiana’s Democratic Party failed to field any well-known contenders. Gov. Bobby Jindal won reelection with 66 percent of the vote.
Coming is second was Tara Hollis, an angry school teacher from Haynesville who had never run for office before, received 182,925 ballots or 18 percent of those cast. Deaton came in third with 50,071 or 5 percent of the total vote.
Deaton is running again this year and expects to find a way into the runoff. Failing that, Deaton said he wants his political ideas – such as reducing tuition to public universities by 10 percent – to be part of the dialogue.
“Populist candidates have a long tradition in America,” Deaton said. “Even if we lose, having some of our ideas getting picked up and being part of the public dialogue, well, that’s winning.”
Deaton supports the death penalty, opposes abortion and is for gun rights. He would set up more business incubators and help entrepreneurs get help from the federal government.
Deaton reported spending $1,319.25 – all of it his own money – on the campaign, with $1,125 of that amount being the fees to qualify for the ballot.
He’s a sole practitioner with 37 years of practice specializing in “intellectual property” cases. One of Deaton’s 20-year-old cases had a brief appearance in this year’s gubernatorial debate.
Deaton represented the plaintiffs, who in the mid-1990s sued to force the City of New Orleans to reinstall the Liberty Memorial after it was quietly removed by then Mayor Sidney Barthelemy. The monument was moved to a less conspicuous location between the One Canal Place parking garage and the floodwall.
The Battle of Liberty Place monument memorialized white supremacy and an armed insurrection against Louisiana’s Reconstruction government. It was one of the statutes targeted in efforts over the summer to remove Confederate monuments in New Orleans.
Apparently stung by Vitter’s criticism of crime in the city, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu emailed supporters linking Vitter with a former Klux Klan leader as opposing efforts to remove the statue. Vitter’s blogging supporters called Landrieu’s email a cheap shot and demanded an apology.
Deaton said he was representing clients. On a personal level, he said he understands why African Americans are offended by the monument, despite its historical significance, and would put together a commission to come up with some sort of treatment that is less offensive.
Billiot is business development manager for ISO Panels Inc., a Richland, Miss. firm that makes insulation for oilfield use. His wife, Beth, is cosmetologist and they also own Skinney’s restaurant, which has been institution in north Tangipahoa Parish since 1943.
“They do say the small candidates are insignificant. But we have an impact on the race,” Billiot said. “I’m very passionate and I’m more about talking to people. People are saying they are ready for a drastic turn-about how we run our state.”
He wants to improve the public education system and the state’s courts as well as “mitigate the rampant abuse of our generous welfare system.”
A member of the United Houma Nations and former U.S. Marine, he has never run for office before and is raising money through small donations. He says television advertising is just too expensive. So he’s relying on Facebook, Twitter and other social media to get his message out.
Simpson is a small business owner. “It’s definitely time to step up and turn the state in a different direction,” Simpson said.
Simpson said he is spending about $10,000 to run ads in Shreveport, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Monroe and Lafayette.
The 30-second spot says that the policies of the Jindal administration haven’t worked, particularly the governor’s refusal to accept federal dollars and his fighting with educators over Common Core. The U.S. Army veteran, who served in Saudi Arabia in 1992 and spent 25 years in the military, also faults Jindal for “not being present for duty.” He says electing Vitter would amount to four more years of the same.
“We need to work on our infrastructure, improve our roads,” Simpson said, adding that he also supports equal pay and better public schools.
Jeremy “JW” Odom did not respond to emails and phone messages.
His asset disclosures states that he owns Big O Consulting LLC, which does business and tax consulting in Natchitoches, and is managing partner of Big O Publishing Group, which is compiling a collection of sermons for a project called “21st Century Preaching,” and is president of Louisiana Ministerial Association Inc., a religious nonprofit that publishes resumes, job listings and offers other services to pastors.
A U.S. Army veteran who fought in Iraqi Freedom, according to his campaign website, Odom describes himself as “an independent candidate that has not been immersed in the Baton Rouge culture.”
He supports the state setting its own minimum wage, improving public schools, eliminate state income taxes and utility deregulation.
Eric Paul Orgeron is running as an “other” party candidate from River Ridge. He’s an inventor and entrepreneur who says Louisiana electorate has become too polarized because of party politics.
“If you go out and talk to people, I mean real conversation, in depth.” Orgeron said, “what you learn is that when faced with an issue, it’s amazing how much we’re alike.”
Too often partisanship gets involved and everyone goes to battle stations, he said.
He said part of the problem is the governor’s office acts in secret.
To open up government, Orgeron said he would wear a “GoPro” camera and live stream every meeting, every happening in the Governor’s Office.
His twitter handle is @GoProGov. But Orgeron has made only one tweet – about Donald Trump’s immigration plan – but nothing about his candidacy.
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