When Mary DuBuisson and John Raymond squared off at a forum hosted by Leadership Northshore late last month, the two candidates in Saturday's runoff for the House District 90 seat from the Slidell area both emphasized their conservative values.
But Raymond, a nondenominational pastor, claimed the mantle of most conservative, asserting that he is the "only Republican" in the race and declaring his unswerving support for President Donald Trump and his opposition to gay marriage.
DuBuisson told the crowd that she is anti-abortion and supports the Second Amendment, suggesting that training and arming teachers is an idea that deserves consideration. But she also stressed her background as a small business owner and legislative assistant to former state Rep. Greg Cromer, the previous occupant of the seat.
"Character talks a lot, and I think that's what it's going to boil down to: character and experience," she said.
Raymond, who is running on the slogan "Let's fix Louisiana," did not respond to multiple requests for an interview.
The pastor of New Horizon church and general manager of The Bridge radio station, Raymond said the fact he started both, and a Christian school, shows his ability to get things done.
On the financial disclosure form that he filed with the Louisiana Board of Ethics, Raymond listed his job with the church as part-time and claimed no income from it. He did not list the radio station position at all.
Raymond's platform includes reducing the size of state government, lowering taxes and leading efforts to end abortion in the state and legal reforms to end frivolous lawsuits, along with economic development and coastal restoration.
A former contestant on the TV show "Survivor," he's also vice chairman of the St. Tammany Parish Republican Party.
DuBuisson, who led in the four-person Nov. 6 primary, has drawn the endorsements of the two losing candidates, Brian Glorioso, who described himself as a conservative Republican, and Sean Morrison, the lone Democrat in the race, who missed the runoff by just three votes. DuBuisson called the support of two former opponents from opposite ends of the political spectrum "amazing."
DuBuisson, 64, said she's been a Republican most of her adult life and doesn't understand how Raymond can accuse her of not being the genuine article. Some in his camp have even suggested that she only recently changed her party affiliation, which she said is untrue.
"I want to truly be a representative. I want to do what the people of District 90 want me to do. I'm a human being; some of my personal beliefs come into play, but I represent a primarily conservative district, and that's the way most will want me to vote," she said in an interview. "I respect those who think differently from me."
DuBuisson said she's heard Raymond's campaign dismiss her experience working for Cromer as being merely a "customer service representative." But she said that's a point of pride with her. When she and her husband owned Slidell Cleaners, she said, they won an award for customer service.
"What I learned in working with Mr. Cromer was that your desires, your issues, your concerns are the same as mine," she told the forum audience. "That is flood protection, taxes, economic development, education."
DuBuisson said she would be a full-time legislator. "If people really want a voice, and not someone just representing their own agenda, I'm the person," she said.
Campaign finance reports show that DuBuisson is far in front of Raymond when it comes to contributions, raising a total of $93,000 in cash over the course of the campaign, $37,000 of it since the primary.
Raymond reports $28,167 in cash and in-kind contributions and has loaned his campaign nearly $17,000.
His most recent campaign finance report also lists, under "debts and obligations," $5,652 to The Bridge for radio advertising spots for his campaign from Sept. 11 to Oct. 31.
Questions about his ads on the radio station had been raised by two critics, John Wells and Rob Maness, who said Raymond's earlier campaign finance reports did not list any expenditures for the advertising or any donations of in-kind services.
Although the two men serve with Raymond on the St. Tammany Republican Parish Executive Committee, when they went to his office to ask about the ads, Raymond called the Slidell police to ask that an officer come to remove them. He said they were harassing him. They eventually left on their own.
Raymond did not respond to inquiries about the incident.