Retired University of New Orleans Professor Polly Thomas secured a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives on Friday after signing up as the lone candidate to fill the vacancy left by Rep. Joe Lopinto.
Thomas, a 69-year-old Republican from Metairie, has long expressed an interest in the Louisiana Legislature. This is her first time running for state representative, but she's filed to run for state senator five times between 1999 and last year.
She withdrew twice, and lost three times for the seat currently held by State Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie.
Qualifying for the House District 80 race representing Jefferson Parish ended Friday and Thomas won the seat by default, when she drew no challengers.
Before eyeing an elected seat in the Louisiana Legislature, Thomas got her feet wet on the Jefferson Parish School Board in the 1990s. She served for seven years and was elected three times before stepping down to run for state senator.
Thomas, who served a term as school board president, offered the motion to help create the state's first charter school.
Thomas said she will be paying close attention to funding and reform potential in the areas of higher education and pre-Kindergarten through 12th-grade education.
"I don't want to get into the real specifics yet," she said, noting she needed time to educate herself on current budgets and policies. "But suffice to say my service on the school board, and my service as a professor will influence my upcoming service in the Legislature. Education of children and youths is of the utmost importance to me."
Thomas retired two years ago from University of New Orleans where she taught students going into the education field how to assess children for special needs programs. Her husband, Bob Thomas, is a professor at Loyola University.
Thomas was reluctant to describe her political philosophy or to provide commentary about the work done during the past summer, a marathon of three legislative sessions spanning from February to June to close a historically large budget shortfall.
She said she is going to use this time to gather information before the next legislative session so she can make informed decisions. She also said she plans on meeting with civic associations and other organizations in her district in the coming months.
"What I really want to do is assist in helping make good policy with appropriate priorities for the benefit of all of our citizens," she said.
But she said she looks forward to the challenge of helping stabilize the chaotic state budget in the coming session. She also said she has an eye on flood protection and drainage funding in her Jefferson Parish district.
Thomas fills the unexpired seat of Lopinto who resigned from office in June to take a job with the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office.
Mike Hasten, spokesman for the Louisiana House of Representatives, said Thomas will be sworn in after the Secretary of State's office certifies her election results next week, on a day of her choosing.
Thomas said her constituents can expect her to be a solutions-driven lawmaker.
"I see myself as a thinking, analytic person who is a good listener and a good problem solver," she said.
Another New Orleans-area official who won their seat Friday for lack of an opponent was Public Service Commissioner Lambert C. Boissiere III, D-New Orleans.
He was reelected to a third term on the five-member board that sets the rates private utility companies can charge for electricity each month.
Boissiere’s district includes the neighborhoods outside the city of New Orleans, up the Mississippi River into north Baton Rouge. He first was elected in 2005.
The six-year term begins on Jan. 1.
The Nov. 8 election, which is expected to have a high turnout because of the presidential ra…
State Rep. Bryan Adams confirmed Tuesday that he will be resigning from the state House to b…