Tacking away from the anti-Washington rhetoric that, so far, has dominated the U.S. Senate race in Louisiana, Democratic candidate Foster Campbell said Monday that he supports a lot of the frequently maligned government programs because they help everyday people.
“When Lyndon Johnson passed Medicare, you remember, ‘oooh, you pass Medicare, you’re going to break everybody, socialize all of medicine,” Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Campbell told the Press Club of Baton Rouge. “Find me somebody now who doesn’t have Medicare. These programs help.”
His comments are in sharp contrast to the leading Republicans in the U.S. Senate race to replace GOP incumbent David Vitter, of Metairie, who is stepping down at the end of his term. For the most part, Republican candidates criticize the federal government as being too large and too intrusive. They argue that costly entitlement programs, such as Medicare, need reform to remain sustainable and oppose bail outs of troubled businesses like the auto industry.
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Campbell countered that the federal government saved the American auto industry and protected manufacturing jobs by lending the private companies billions of dollars. The loans have been repaid and the industry is stronger than ever. “I believe in bailing out people when they need it, when it helps the economy,” Campbell said.
He also backs accepting federal grants to help pay for installing high speed internet in rural parishes, equal pay for men and women as well as an increased minimum wage.
He argues that a better paid workforce spends that money and bolsters the economy.
“I can’t sell insurance to anybody who is broke,” said Campbell, a former school teacher who now sells insurance and cattle in Bossier Parish. “Who doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage today? The Republican Party doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage today.”
Campbell paused a bit when asked if he thought Democratic President Barack Obama had been a good leader.
“He’s done some good things. He sure has,” Campbell said. “Next thing you want to know is who I voted for.”
He didn’t say.
The three-term PSC commissioner won in 2014 with 61.5 percent of the vote in a north Louisiana district of about 900,000 constituents in 24 parishes who twice overwhelmingly voted against Obama.
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Campbell said despite having a couple of Democratic Party opponents with deep pockets, he’d be in the runoff against one of the Republican candidates.
The election is set for Nov. 8, with a Dec. 10 runoff of the top two vote-getters if no candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote.
From the Democratic Party side, Campbell faces Caroline Fayard, a New Orleans lawyer who is daughter of one of the South’s most prominent plaintiffs’ attorneys, and Josh Pellerin, who runs an energy company in Lafayette. Peter Williams, of Lettsworth, also is running as Democrat.
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U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, of Lafayette; and John Fleming, of Minden; State Treasurer John N. Kennedy, of Madisonville; retired U.S. Air Force officer Rob Maness, also of Madisonville; and former Congressman Joseph Cao, of Harvey; have all announced their candidacies as Republicans.
Also running for the seat is; Troy Hebert, who was Alcohol and Tobacco Control Commissioner under Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, is running without party affiliation.
Campbell was first elected to the Louisiana House in 1976 and went on to serve in the state Senate before being elected in 2002 to the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, telecommunications and intrastate trucking.