Here is Advocate political columnist Stephanie Grace's Quick Take on the most recent Louisiana gubernatorial debate:
1) There was some good substance in the debate, although not as much as the questioners, who hailed from television stations around the state, sought.
All three candidates who showed up ruled out shutting down any colleges in order to get higher education costs under control. Only Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne said raising taxes is on the table, while Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle and state Rep. John Bel Edwards said it's not -- although each would look at reducing tax exemptions, which would increase the tax burden on someone.
Edwards and Angelle said that, if elected, they'd like to be remembered for having fixed the state's structural budget deficit. Dardenne said he'd like to be remembered for having figured out how to educate Louisiana's students, and how to pay for it. The three engaged in a detailed discussion of how Medicaid expansion, which they all support in some form, would work.
Still, all three did duck some requests for specifics. Asked to name a constitutional fund dedication they'd like to end (basically, a pot of money that's now required to be spent on a specific purpose that they'd like to redirect) nobody bit. Only Angelle got at all specific, when he offered to end a statutory dedication (a set-aside by law but not under the harder-to-change state constitution) for technology for the Legislature. Moderator John Snell of WVUE in New Orleans responded that raiding that fund would only provide a "pittance."
2) The debate was held at the Governor's Mansion, and all three candidates gave its current occupant a poor report card. Angelle, a onetime aide, gave Gov. Bobby Jindal a C-. Dardenne, like Angelle a fellow Republican, gave him a D. Only Edwards, the lone Democrat, said Jindal deserves an F (the two Republicans did say Jindal deserves an F on accessibility, though).
But their real fury was aimed not at Jindal but at the man who wasn't there, U.S. Sen. David Vitter. Vitter has attended only two televised debates, and is skipping both of the forums scheduled for this final week. All his opponents basically called Vitter a coward, and Edwards quipped: "We're here in the home of an absentee governor. I don't believe we ought to elect an absentee candidate."
All three also said Vitter's prostitution scandal, revealed back in 2007, remains relevant. Angelle said he'd only be holding Vitter to the same standard he set back in the 1990s, when he called former President Bill Clinton unfit to serve. Dardenne said he hopes two of the three candidates in tonight's debate will make the runoff, because a runoff with Vitter would be an embarrassment to the state. He called Vitter's past a stain on himself and on the state.
3) Snell moderates a great debate. He knows policy and works hard to hone in on specifics, even if the candidates don't fully cooperate. If you watched all the debates, particularly the ones that Vitter attended, you know this makes a huge difference. Once more, it's a real shame that voters didn't get to hear all four major candidates tonight.