The Race for Louisiana’s Future

By Stephen Salopek



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David Vitter



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John Bel Edwards




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Scott Angelle




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Jay Dardenne



With another Republican presidential debate behind us, it is safe to say that election season is now in full swing. Over the course of the next year we will all be analyzing and evaluating the policies of those running in 2016 for our nation’s top position. Closer to home, however, we have a more pressing election.
On Oct. 24, Louisiana will be choosing its next governor, with a runoff election scheduled Nov. 21 if needed. Of the many candidates originally competing, four have emerged as the main contenders: David Vitter, John Bel Edwards, Scott Angelle, and Jay Dardenne. According to the latest poll conducted by Triumph, an independent firm out of Jackson, Mississippi as of September 20, U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R) and John Bel Edwards (D) are currently tied at 31 percent. Far behind them trail Public Service Commissioner Scott Angelle (R) with 14 percent and Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne (R) with 13 percent. 11 percent of those polled remain undecided.
If a candidate has more than 50 percent of the vote in the general election, he will win. But with the vote split at 31 percent between the top two contenders, this is not likely, which is why there is always a scheduled runoff date for gubernatorial elections in Louisiana. We are one of only three states who hold elections in this fashion.
Three of the major issues in this election are Higher Education, Public Education Reform/Common Core, and the Affordable Health Care Act. Here are the platform views of the top candidates on these issues:

Public Education Reform/Common Core:

Despite initially supporting it, David Vitter has recently come out in opposition of the highly criticized federal educational standard known as Common Core; instead he believes Louisiana should imple-ment its own standard of education. According to his website, Scott Angelle also insists the system is largely flawed and should not be implemented in its current form. They both believe the state should completely do away with Common Core’s PARCC testing (Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers). John Bel Edwards is also very critical of the system and has been since its implementation, asserting that he is the only candidate to not flip-flop on the issue. Jay Dardenne is the only candidate who advocates in favor of the program and, despite acknowledging some of its current flaws, believes it is still the best option for Louisiana public schools, according to The Advocate.

Affordable Healthcare Act:

While the Republican candidates in this election are very critical of ‘Obamacare’ in just about every
regard, none of them are headstrong enough to deny the federal funding from the program. David Vitter endorses accepting federal Medicaid dollars; while Jay Dardenne goes further to propose using the funds to lessen Jindal’s hospital cutbacks, according to Louisiana Weekly. Scott Angelle advocates for fiscally responsible, private market-based healthcare solutions, and does not support expanding Medicare. According to The Advocate, John Bel Edwards – the only military veteran in the race – fully backs the program and endorses a statewide healthcare exchange program.

Higher Education:

Louisiana has 14 state universities and a number of great community colleges and trade schools. Therefore, all four candidates have legitimate plans that involve dissolving wasteful-spending programs in order to enhance the higher education budget. Recently Scott Angelle, Jay Dardenne and John Bel Edwards met at Southeastern University (Sen. Vitter was unable to attend) and there, answering questions from students, addressed higher education in detail. Confronted specifically with the question of continuing the financially hemorrhaging Taylor Opportunity Program for Students (TOPS), the candidates’ answers ranged from full, continued support to restructuring the whole program. Angelle, a well-known TOPS advocate, spoke passionately on the topic; “I think we ought to eliminate low performing programs as opposed to penalizing high performance students” he said during the debate, “Tops has been an opportunity for people to move from the poor house through the school house.” Likewise, Dardenne promised that TOPS would be left intact under his leadership, but did emphasize that the state legislature should, “…have discretion to evaluate situations when facing severe budget cuts….” John Bel Edwards appeared most critical of the system, pointing to the financial implications it has on the state. “It started as a $60 million program per year” he said, “Now its $280 million per year and its going to be $400 million if we don’t do something…we have to stop the annual double-digit tuition increases,” according to debate coverage from WWL News.

This next month will be an interesting one to say the least. Regardless of where you find yourself aligning on these policies, it is imperative that on Oct. 24 you get out to the polls and cast your vote.


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