In addition to the all-important runoff for governor, several other key races are on the Nov. 21 ballot. In those remaining races, Gambit makes the following endorsements:
Lieutenant Governor: Billy Nungesser
The job of Louisiana’s lieutenant governor is two-fold: be ready to step up and become governor if there’s a vacancy in that office; and oversee the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism. We like both candidates who made the runoff for this office, but we give the nod to former Plaquemines Parish president Billy Nungesser. Nungesser has a passion for all things Louisiana and a proven record of standing up for what he believes is right regardless of who might be offended. During the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, he was the face not only of his parish but also for all of coastal Louisiana - and he gave voice to the frustrations of millions affected by the spill. He will bring that kind of leadership to an office that was well served by Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne.
Attorney General: Buddy Caldwell
The attorney general is the state’s chief legal officer, and a job that important cannot be entrusted to someone who lacks real courtroom experience. Incumbent Buddy Caldwell has decades of experience as a prosecutor, and his office has recouped billions in damage awards for the state by pursuing environmental and pharmaceutical violators. Caldwell’s runoff opponent, former Congressman Jeff Landry, literally has never tried a criminal case before a jury. This one should be an easy choice for voters: Caldwell for attorney general.
West Bank Flood Protection Millages: Yes
Voters in Algiers and on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish will decide the fate of separate but related flood protection millage propositions. In Algiers, voters are asked to renew a 6.35-mill property tax to support the Algiers Levee District. In West Jefferson, voters will decide whether to approve a new 5.5-mill property tax to maintain post-Katrina infrastructure investments in the West Jefferson Levee District. Both millages would take effect in 2016 and remain in place for 30 years, expiring in 2045. The proposed property taxes will pay for critical flood protection projects, and we urge our readers on the West Bank to vote “Yes” for that protection.
Senate District 7: Jeff Arnold
Jeff Arnold has been a staunch, effective advocate for the West Bank during his years in the state House of Representatives. He is committed to restoring full funding to higher education and health care, and he has proposed innovative solutions to the state’s structural deficit. He is ready to fill the void left by the retirement of state Sen. David Heitmeier.
House District 99: Jimmy Harris
This district includes the Lower 9 and Bywater. We believe newcomer Jimmy Harris stands out as the candidate best suited to tackle the challenges of these still-recovering neighborhoods. Harris stresses the importance of early childhood education as well as full funding for higher ed and public hospitals. He supports expanding Medicaid so that working families can obtain health insurance. He has governmental experience as an aide to Congressman Cedric Richmond, and he therefore will be able to hit the ground running in Baton Rouge.
House District 100: John Bagneris
This district encompasses much of New Orleans East, an area that in many ways is still struggling to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Bagneris brings thoughtful ideas to the task of reforming the state’s budget problems and a lifetime of experience working with community-based programs. He will focus on economic development, early childhood education, and full funding for higher ed and health care. He also has specific ideas about how to pay for the state’s Master Plan for Coastal Restoration, which is a vital issue in a district that has huge swaths of wetlands and is prone to storm-related flooding.
Orleans School Board
District 1: Keith Barney
Voters in the Lower 9 and New Orleans East will choose a new member of the Orleans Parish School Board to replace Ira Thomas, who resigned from the board and pleaded guilty to a federal charge related to a bribery scheme. The School Board faces many challenges and needs a voice of reason as well as a member who will restore voter confidence. We believe Keith Barney is the right candidate for this important job. He recognized both the potential and the challenges confronting charter schools, and he proposes forensic audits for both the local school system and the Recovery School District. A certified special education teacher, Barney recognizes the needs for consistency in the education of special needs children. These are the kinds of ideas and skill sets that our public school system needs.