Candidate endorsements for Nov. 6
An important Election Day that will determine the direction for the next four years for our nation, city-parish and judicial system looms in just a week. There are many items on the ballot, and I certainly hope each voter will inform themselves and vote. It is hard to complain about the outcome if one doesn't participate in the process.
Politics has become a full-contact sport and plain nasty. I think that has deterred many from offering to serve, and that is unfortunate because it limits our choices—in one case we had only one candidate run for an open seat on the Metro Council, and several incumbents ran unopposed, resulting in their instant election without voter participation.
As you meet any candidate, regardless if you agree with their politics, commend them for being willing to step up to the plate and offer to serve—because, at the same time, half the voters won't even take a few minutes to drive to the polls on Election Day and cast a ballot. That's a shame when people have died to protect that freedom.
So, I will presume you are one who will be voting, and I applaud you for making your voice heard at the polls. There are numerous races and candidates, as well as statewide amendments, for you to consider. I have had the chance to interview more than 20 candidates in various races, watched the debates, read articles, studied websites, and gotten references from those in the judicial system, government and business. (I also researched the constitutional amendments. I shared my endorsements on those in my previous column, but I have reprinted a recap of my positions below.)
Below are my choices for most of the races on the ballot. This was a very tough task because there are many qualified candidates in some of the key races, especially in the race for Supreme Court. I know many of the candidates personally and have endorsed many of them for the seats they currently hold. While it is good that voters have a strong field to choose from in these cases, it is always hard to say who is best. But in the voting booth, you must choose a single candidate. So here are my choices, listed in the order they will appear on the ballot.
The election for president comes down to your views on what makes America a great country and the role of government. Are we a United States that still believes in the American dream? Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice stated it well in August at the Republican National Convention: “Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have never believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. ... Ours has been a belief in opportunity.”
There are many Americans who have seized the opportunities and taken responsibility to improve their lot in life and for their families. Many of those are entrepreneurs who took risks and created jobs and wealth.
And what did President Barack Obama have to say about them?
He said, “If you've got a business, you didn't build that. Somebody else made that happen.” He just doesn't get it.
Mitt Romney is one of those entrepreneurs who has been successful and knows how to create jobs in a nation with record unemployment that has shown no improvement in four years. And he will reduce our $16 trillion national debt, which has spiraled out of control under President Obama. We need a strong leader.
I believe America is at a fork in the road. Our choice for president will determine which road we travel.
The choices are very clear. To use the president's own words, I have “hope” for a “change” on Nov. 6.
U.S. REPRESENTATIVE 6TH DISTRICT: Bill Cassidy
Health care will be a major issue in our nation going forward, no matter who is elected president. Change is certain, and it will affect us all in our lives and companies. Dr. Bill Cassidy is an asset to Louisiana and to Congress. He is not only intelligent, but also passionate and caring and an excellent example of a public servant.
Cassidy supports education reform and school choice and understands the power of free enterprise and the limited role of government. He serves with integrity and has represented our district and state with distinction. He deserves another term.
SUPREME COURT 5TH DISTRICT: Bill Morvant
After interviewing all eight candidates, I found this a tough race to call. This is clearly the most talented and experienced field for a judicial election there has ever been. I thought about a “U-pick 'em.” You have appellate judges, district judges and a prominent local trial attorney in the race. But only one will be elected and only one can get your vote and mine.
With the retirement of Chief Justice Kitty Kimball, it is nice to have so many qualified candidates. I applaud the field and know they are all working hard to make their case for your vote. There could be a number of “right” choices in my opinion, but I also see some that I would not like on the Supreme Court bench.
But with a large field and fractured vote, there is the danger that those “right” choices split the vote and a lesser candidate ends up in the runoff. So I feel a duty to make an endorsement. It can be difficult to decide what factors to use to determine your candidate. They are all lawyers, most are judges, and if justice is blind, does party affiliation matter? So do you look at experience, reputation, character, values or their personal views on the role of judiciary? I took all of these into consideration.
In the end, I decided to vote for a candidate, Bill Morvant, who has served as a district judge for 16 years with distinction and integrity and gets high marks from the judiciary, prosecutors, lawyers and businesspeople with whom I have talked.
Morvant has the education, experience, work ethic and intelligence to be an effective associate justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court.
He is a conservative, and I am confident he will be a Supreme Court judge who is fair and impartial, with his decisions being based on the law and the facts.
Here is a summary of my positions on the 2012 constitutional amendments, which can be read in full in the Oct. 16 issue or online here.
NO - Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly
YES - Strict Scrutiny Review for Gun Laws
NO - Earlier Notice of Public Retirement Bills
NO - Homestead Exemption for Veterans' Spouses
YES - Forfeiture of Public Retirement Benefits
NO - Property Tax Exemption Authority for New Iberia
YES - Membership of Certain Boards and Commissions
YES - Non-Manufacturing Tax Exemption Program
NO - More Notice for Crime Prevention District Bills
Local option vote:
YES - Term Limits for School Board Members
This election has an incumbent appellate judge being challenged by a district judge and a local attorney. While the race is somewhat unusual, voters have a choice.
Mike McDonald has served on the Court of Appeals for the last 10 years. Prior to that he was a district judge for 16 years. Observers tell me he has done a great job as judge and describe him as “extremely fair.” It is hard to ask much more from a judge. McDonald deserves re-election.
PUBLIC SERVICE COMMISSION: Scott Angelle
This is another open seat that has drawn a larger field with some talented candidates. Some have held office before, and for others this is their first race—and they offer different types of experience. Scott Angelle and State Rep. Erich Ponti are the front runners here, and both have government experience and have held leadership roles. Angelle has been a parish president, interim lieutenant governor and secretary of natural resources (for eight years), and he serves on a local bank board. Ponti is a state representative, chair of the House Commerce Committee and former chair of the House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee and has been a general contractor for 20 years. Both are good men.
The PSC has to deal with many issues, balancing the interests of ratepayers (citizens and industry) and the utility companies. Many of these issues involve energy. The PSC also deals with regulation. I believe Scott Angelle's statewide experience at natural resources (energy background and administration of regulation issues) and the leadership he showed responding to the oil spill and moratorium have prepared him well and are a fit for the PSC. He has excellent skills in working with people, too, as evidenced by the fact that both houses of the Legislature, which he worked with, voted unanimously to approve him as interim lieutenant governor. Angelle would be an asset to the PSC and serve District 2 well.
MAYOR-PRESIDENT: Kip Holden
East Baton Rouge Parish is now the most populous parish in the state. We are fortunate to have experienced growth, but with that comes challenges, too. We see that in the area of crime, and that concerns everyone. It is a complex issue that involves law enforcement working together, education, family structure, issues of poverty, job opportunities, church and neighborhood involvement, and innovative programs like BRAVE. A simplistic plan of hiring more police will not solve it alone.
Mayor Kip Holden has had his highs and lows in the past eight years. But compare him to his predecessors and he looks very good at getting things done. For example, let's look at rankings of cities. Baton Rouge has enjoyed several No. 1 rankings and is now near the top of other lists. Those include: No. 1 for Best Mid-Sized Metro Area for New and Expanded Corporate Facilities (Site Selection magazine, 2011); No. 10 among Top Ten Cities for Young Adults (The Business Journals, 2011); No. 2 out of 100 metros for Per Capita Income Growth Rate (Portfolio.com, 2010); No. 1 for Best Mid-Sized City for Business Growth (Southern Business & Development, 2010). That is an impressive report card on both a regional and national level, and one that other cities envy.
In addition, the Green Light road program has been a hallmark of the last eight years, which have also seen the development of the film business and a more vibrant downtown, befitting a capital city.
Holden had a stronger team around him in his first term than in his second. Team matters, and he needs to focus on that. He had some strained relationships with other elected officials and the council in recent history and that too needs his attention. But Holden has shown he will innovate, take risks and lead—and Baton Rouge must continue in that direction to compete and grow. I would like to see him be even bolder in his last term. I believe he will do that.
Continued growth depends on economic development, which will provide the funds to address public safety and more road construction. The No. 1 economic developer and salesman for the city must be the mayor-president, and let's face it, there is no better salesman for Baton Rouge than Holden. He has the field beat hands down. For that reason alone, Mayor Holden deserves re-election.
Let me add that I like a few of the ideas of candidates Gordon Mese and Steve Myers, and I think Holden should sit down with them after the election to hear their input.
As for Mike Walker, he has been in city hall for the last 12 years and has been mayor pro tem for the last four. He has not displayed the ideas, innovation or leadership needed to lead this parish. In fact, it seems he would turn back the clock to the days of former Mayor Woody Dumas, for whom he served as chief administrative officer (1972-1976). Baton Rouge doesn't need to go backward.
Let's keep moving forward with Kip.
METRO COUNCIL DISTRICT 6: Donna Collins-Lewis
Donna Collins-Lewis started serving people in 1988 when she was the first council aide to now-Sen. Sharon Weston Broome. She was elected to her own seat on the Metro Council four years ago. I didn't endorse her then, but she has done an effective job representing her constituents and she has my support now for re-election.
METRO COUNCIL DISTRICT 7: No endorsement
METRO COUNCIL DISTRICT 9: Joel Boé
Joel Boé has often been the voice of reason on the council. He prepares, studies the issues and the facts—and has something to say when he speaks. He has the potential to lead the Metro Council and maybe the city-parish in the future. He is a conservative with a business background and cares about our community. He has been a strong voice on the Metro Council and deserves another four years.
METRO COUNCIL DISTRICT 10: Tara Wicker
This was a close race four years ago, with Tara Wicker winning over Larry Selders, who is her opponent again. They are both enthusiastic individuals who care about this community. But Wicker has done a good job over the last four years and has won over some of her vocal opponents from the last election. She is thoughtful and seems to work well with her colleagues. I hope she will help create some unity on the new council.
METRO COUNCIL DISTRICT 12: John Delgado
Incumbent councilman Smokie Bourgeois is a guy whom you like to have a beer with and chew the fat. (He will gladly tell you what is on his mind.) But the question on Election Day is, do you want him setting the course for our city in representing District 12? Talking to Bourgeois, you get the idea that, at his age, he is set in his ways—and that's the way he likes it, whether you like it or not. I realized his old-school view of “change” or “innovation” when I heard him say about the downtown library, “What I'd like to see them do is repurpose the building … whitewash the exterior, add some caulking, fix the drapes. … They can make it look spiffy.”
Not what I had in mind for my children or grandchildren. I think it would be “groovy” if Bourgeois turned over the reins to the next generation to lead.
John Delgado, 38, is an attorney who is running for the first time. He is a graduate of Catholic High, LSU and Tulane Law School and has his own law firm. He is open to new ideas and wants to contribute to our community. I think a new and fresh perspective from District 12 could be helpful on the new council.
CITY JUDGE DIVISION C: Alex “Brick” Wall
Judge Brick Wall was elected in 1999 to City Court. Folks in the legal community tell me Wall is a very good judge. He is well-respected and practiced law for 26 years before being elected. We need to keep City Court judges like Wall.
CITY JUDGE DIVISION E: Suzan Ponder
Judge Suzan Ponder has served as a City Court judge for 20 years. She began, and presides over, the City Court Sobriety Court (DWI court). Observers describe her as doing a very good job, but say she can be strict. A 20-year record of service as a fair judge speaks volumes. It says to me loud and clear, “Re-elect Suzan Ponder.”
CITY CONSTABLE: Reginald Brown Sr.
I first met Reggie Brown when he worked as a major at the Sheriff's Office. I also remember seeing him serving meals downtown to those in need through the Holiday Helpers program, which he organized. He is a true public servant who has earned the public's trust. As long as we continue the office, Brown is a good one to lead it.
(Note: There are a few races I did not get to examine or in which I was unfamiliar with the candidates, so I chose to take no position at this time and will consider them if there is a run-off. Those included the 2nd Congressional District, Metro Council District 2 and Justice of the Peace Ward 3.)
Calling all entrepreneurs
Entrepreneurs are an asset to any community because they innovate, take risks and create jobs by starting and growing businesses. (Just take a look at our cover story on Newton Thomas, a consummate entrepreneur.)
The second annual Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week will soon be here to help encourage, support and teach entrepreneurs. It will be Nov. 11-17, and there are many events to attend. Some are free and some require tickets. Check out the full schedule on pages 40-43. You can also go to CelebrateBREW.com.
Business Report is proud to be a major sponsor of BREW, along with the Louisiana Technology Park. BREW is supported by BRAC. Business Report will present the Entrepreneur Forum at L'Auberge Casino & Hotel, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 7:30 a.m.-9:30 a.m., featuring Josh Linkner, a New York Times best-selling author, the founder of ePrize and the CEO of Detroit Venture Partners. His keynote address will focus on “The Five Biggest Traps for Entrepreneurs (and How to Avoid Them).” Afterward, Linkner will join local entrepreneurs Leah Simon of Tsunami and Pete Stewart of TraceSecurity in a discussion and take questions. Sponsors of the event are Business First Bank, L'Auberge, and Stone Pigman Walther Wittmann. A limited number of tickets are available here.
Also check out Thursday night with Jason Lucash of OrigAudio, who appeared on ABC's Shark Tank, and the exciting Pitch Night from SeNSE, with a $125,000 investment on the line.
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