With candidates boasting career experience ranging from the petrochemical industry to a school teacher, a mix of Democrats and Republicans, veteran elected officials and political newcomers, the makeup of candidates vying for the 71st District state representative seat is offering Livingston Parish voters a ballot of diversity.
The district seat, which covers part of western Livingston Parish encompassing Denham Springs and Walker, opens as term-limited Republican J. Rogers Pope steps down. He has served the area since 2007 and is now running for state senator for the 13th District.
Those seeking to fill the position are Democrat Lori Callais and Republicans Ivy Graham, Jonathan Davis, Robert Poole and Buddy Mincey.
As the only Democrat in the race, retired school teacher and grandmother Callais says she's hopeful the deep red area can put aside partisanship and look at her ideas for moving the state forward.
“After the 2016 floods, they went session and session and session, and I thought, ‘This is ridiculous, they’re acting like children,’ and I taught children for years,” she said.
Callais said she considers herself a fiscally conservative Democrat but aims to raise pay for teachers and law enforcement, as well as focus on mental health and drug abuse issues that are harming the environment children grow up in.
Callais and Graham are both part of what has been an unprecedented surge of women on Louisiana ballots, as evidenced by an all-time high of 77 female candidates that qualified in August.
When the dust cleared from three days of candidate-qualifying, 77 women had signed up to run for the Louisiana House and state Senate – more t…
Graham, a family law attorney, said she had worked on campaigns before but was prompted to make a run herself to pursue needed policy changes.
“I’m tired of Louisiana being last at everything, and I want to get us moving in the right direction,” she said.
Graham said she would push for reform and accountability in state departments to ensure the efficient use of tax dollars. She said she'd also focus attention on ensuring federal dollars are making it to the local level, particularly in Livingston Parish where drainage is such a big concern.
The other three candidates have a range of political backgrounds, but have all served as elected officials in the area prior to running for the seat in the Legislature.
Poole is a Denham Springs city councilman. He served a term in 2003 and ran again in 2014, winning another term.
He believes his strong conservative views — he wants to make divorces for parents more difficult to obtain and to relax concealed carry laws — separates him from the pool of candidates seeking to represent Livingston Parish.
“I’m not running to be the newest member of some cool club that meets in Baton Rouge for 90 days every year,” he said. “I intend to probably make some people uncomfortable, and I’m okay with that because it’s not necessarily a pleasant process, that of writing and revamping laws especially if your purpose is to serve the larger good.”
He said he wants to remove the Wit and Wisdom curriculum from the state — an elementary English language arts curriculum that has proven controversial in Livingston Parish — and require a proficiency in American history and free enterprise before graduating high school.
He said he has plans to reduce vehicle insurance by studying models in more successful states. He said he'll also work to establish a drainage and flood control trust similar to the current transportation trust, and to pass a law requiring that all high school athletes compete as their birth gender.
The youngest candidate, 26-year-old Jonathan Davis, said he'll push for Second Amendment-related changes to make it easier for people to carry concealed weapons.
Davis, the owner of Direct Mailing Services and a longtime political and media consultant, served on the Walker City Council from 2012 through 2016, but chose not to run again to instead prepare for the District 71 race.
He said the 2016 flood is a massive issue for the area he seeks to represent and that he'd push for grants to go to local municipalities that could spend money in a more meaningful ways than the state.
"I believe we need more people to vote against taxes, especially on small business. … And I just believe we need a strong, conservative vote for this area,” he said.
The candidate with the biggest cashflow in the race is 13-year Livingston Parish School Board member Buddy Mincey. Mincey rounded out the reporting period, which ended at the beginning of September, with $65,862 on hand, compared with the next-closest opponent, Graham, with $7,063 on hand.
Mincey said his lengthy career as a safety director in the petrochemical industry and leadership qualities steeped in his current position as an elected official make him the best qualified candidate.
Drainage and infrastructure are important issues for the parish, Mincey said, as echoed by the mayors of the District 71 municipalities and the parish president. He also said it's important to ensure that Livingston Parish has a voice for every issue on the table at the Legislature.
“I think if you look at the magnitude of votes a legislator takes during each session, I want to represent Livingston Parish in every one of those votes,” he said. “It’s a much bigger picture than just what the most immediate needs are, it’s everything, and we need to have good leaders at the state with integrity.”
Mincey is on the school board’s budget and goals committee helping manage the roughly $300 million school system budget, and he’s acted as the board’s chair for the last nine years.
“I have a strong belief in fiscal accountability and responsibility, and I plan on taking that experience to the state level,” he said.
The election will take place Oct. 12, with early voting Sept. 28 to Oct. 5, excluding Sunday, Sept. 29.
Name: Lori Callais
Occupation: Retired Livingston Parish school teacher
Name: Jonathan Davis
Occupation: Owner, Direct Mailing Services
Name: Ivy Graham
Name: Buddy Mincey
Occupation: Safety director, VOLKS Constructors
Name: Robert Poole
Occupation: Owner, Process Automation and Controls