Gambit's Election Issue

Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 12, and this is an extremely important election for Louisiana. Voters will choose a governor, six other statewide officials, members of the Louisiana Legislature, local officials at the parish level and a new state Supreme Court justice. Voters also will decide the fate of four proposed constitutional amendments. Their decisions will guide Louisiana for the next four years and beyond.

As we have done in the past, we offer our recommendations, with the strongest being that you, our readers, vote — even if you disagree with our endorsements. A big voter turnout is a victory for democracy. Herewith our endorsements.

Governor: John Bel Edwards

John Bel Edwards has earned a second term as Louisiana’s governor. After inheriting a $2 billion deficit from former Gov. Bobby Jindal, he worked with Republicans as well as Democrats in the state Legislature to produce a $500 million surplus in less than four years. That surplus now can be used to reduce state debt and start repairing some of Louisiana’s crumbling infrastructure. Another benefit of Edwards’ stewardship: Moody’s Investors Service recently upgraded our state’s bond rating.

Edwards expanded Medicaid, which made health care available to nearly half a million Louisiana citizens who could not previously afford it. That decision, because of federal funding for Medicaid, has helped balance the state budget — and saved lives. He also built bipartisan support for increased investment in early childhood education, a much-needed pay raise for teachers and a focus on criminal justice reform that has, for the first time in recent history, made Louisiana safer and removed us from the top of the list of the world’s most carceral places. Under Edwards’ leadership, Louisiana has begun climbing out of the ditch.

His opponents lob partisan attacks against him, but the truth is Edwards has put the people of Louisiana ahead of petty politics. He has governed with reason and fairness. We urge our readers to re-elect John Bel Edwards so Louisiana can continue on the right track for another four years.

Lt. Governor: Billy Nungesser

Billy Nungesser promised to serve without regard to party politics, and he has kept that promise. He has worked well with Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards and the Republican-led Legislature. Equally important, he has led the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism (which the lieutenant governor oversees) with energy, focus and purpose. In the face of budget constraints, Nungesser worked with tourism leaders throughout Louisiana to help bring record numbers of tourists to all parts of the state. His office also manages most state museums and all state parks, which likewise have seen a spike in attendance despite budget cuts. Politicians love to talk about doing more with less, but Billy Nungesser has actually done it. He deserves another term as Louisiana’s lieutenant governor.

Secretary of State: Kyle Ardoin

Incumbent Kyle Ardoin served as the chief deputy of this office before becoming interim Secretary of State. He won the office outright in a special election last year and has served well since then. This office is an important starting point for new businesses and a key resource for attorneys and businesses needing to access important records and data. The Secretary of State also serves as Louisiana’s chief elections officer, charged with maintaining voter registration rolls and safeguarding the integrity of our elections system. The Secretary of State’s office has functioned at a high level for decades and continues to do so. Kyle Ardoin has earned a full term.

Attorney General: No Endorsement

Treasurer: John Schroder

The state treasurer chairs the Louisiana Bond Commission, which approves state borrowing through the sale of bonds and serves as the state’s chief fiscal officer. He also oversees constitutional and statutory funds placed under his control, manages the state’s cash (including reserves), and runs the state’s popular unclaimed property program. These and other functions of the office are critical services that typically are provided out of the daily spotlight, yet they have tremendous impact on Louisiana’s fiscal integrity. Incumbent John Schroder has served only two years, but he has served well. We believe he has earned a full term in the office.

Insurance Commissioner: Jim Donelon

Other than the governor’s race, the contest for commissioner of insurance appears to be the most hotly contested statewide race on the Oct. 12 ballot. Incumbent Jim Donelon took over the office after the third insurance commissioner in a row was sentenced to federal prison. Since that time, he has turned the office around. He spurred competition among insurance providers, which in turn has lowered rates in key areas. This was particularly true in the years after Hurricane Katrina, when so many insurance companies left Louisiana. Today, more than 30 companies write property and casualty policies in our state — a dramatic improvement over the immediate aftermath of Katrina. Donelon has been an advocate for consumers across the board and even held bail bondsmen accountable for overcharging their clients. His opponent offers promises and campaign rhetoric, but Jim Donelon has a proven record that merits him another term as insurance commissioner.

Agriculture Commissioner: Mike Strain

Incumbent Mike Strain is another statewide official who took over an office engulfed in scandal. Since he took office in 2008, he has brought integrity and stability to the state’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry. In his current term, Strain was tasked with overseeing Louisiana’s fledgling medical cannabis program. This was new territory for Strain as well as for LSU and Southern University, which were authorized by state lawmakers to grow medical strains of cannabis. Although the program saw several delays that frustrated those anxious to get legally recommended CBD, it is now available statewide and receiving rave reviews. Equally important, the program was launched without scandal. We recommend Mike Strain for re-election as agriculture commissioner.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE)

District 1: James Garvey

As a leading education reformer and three-term member of BESE, Jim Garvey has worked to improve public education across Louisiana. He has pushed for higher standards and expanding opportunities for public school families, particularly children with special needs. His work on BESE speaks for itself in the form of significant increases in graduation rates, improved ACT scores, higher-rated schools in his district (particularly in New Orleans), increased college enrollment among recent graduates, and higher TOPS-eligibility rates among high school graduates. We support Jim Garvey for reelection to BESE from District 1.

BESE District 2: No Endorsement

In addition to the above races, we have endorsed in more than a dozen other area legislative and parish elections. We do not endorse in judicial races, and therefore we make no endorsement in the race for Louisiana Supreme Court.

For more details about our endorsements in these and other races, as well as the four proposed constitutional amendments on the Oct. 12 ballot, please go to www.bestofneworleans.com.

This is a commentary from Gambit, produced independently from reporters at the paper.