As we’ve done with his opponent Jeff Landry, The Hayride got hold of 3rd District congressional candidate Hunt Downer for a few questions on why he’s running, some key issues in the race and and his philosophy. Answers are below…
1. Why are you running for Congress? What should 3rd District voters take from your candidacy in terms of qualifications, expertise or ideas?
Over the past few years, our Federal Government has crept further and further away from its founding principles of freedom and limited government. If we are to leave our children a better place to live, this must be stopped, and we need strong leadership to turn the direction of our country around. The stakes are extremely high ― we are at a critical moment in our nation’s history. But this is not our only challenge. Because of the ongoing oil spill, we are facing what may be the toughest challenge in Louisiana’s history, too. The thought of sitting on the sidelines and watching while the very fabric of life in South Louisiana is at risk is not an option for me. I decided to stand up and fight for our country, our children, and our coast.
I have a lifetime of service fighting for a better Louisiana. At this critical time, we must have someone who will get things done quickly. I am a former Speaker of the Louisiana House of Representatives, former Secretary of the Louisiana Department of Veterans Affairs, and a recently retired Major General in the Louisiana National Guard. This has uniquely prepared me to provide a strong voice for the people of the Third District in Congress regarding what we need in South Louisiana, particularly concerning the emergency response and recovery issues that are vitally important now and in the future.
2. What do you think is the most important issue in the race this year?
The oil spill has brought to the forefront the things that are wrong with Washington.
The fight to make the Federal Government and BP adequately respond to the oil spill and provide the tools that we need to recover is the most important issue this year, and likely for years to come. This is a critical time for the people of South Louisiana, and the choices that are made by the government and BP will have long-term consequences. They are directly affecting the lives and way of life for a vast majority of us in this area. Our coast is the economic lifeblood of our region.
However, this is not the only important issue. We must create a better and more prosperous future for our country. We must leave a better America for our children, as previous generations have done for us. To do this, we must make the Federal Government return to our founding principles of freedom and limited government.
We are fighting a disaster in the Gulf created by BP’s negligence, and we are fighting a Presidential disaster (the deepwater drilling moratorium) created by a stroke of the President’s pen. This is a catastrophe and will have a long-term economic impact that it is devastating for the people of our region.3. What are your thoughts on the possible loss of the district in redistricting, and how might that affect this year’s race?
I will fight to save the Third District so that Southeast Louisiana can keep its own designated seat at the table in Congress! Also, I will help the other members of Louisiana’s delegation fight to keep all of Louisiana’s congressional districts. Every Louisiana vote in Congress counts, and we must not lose any seats, especially our own. When you consider that the Third District is home to an overwhelming majority of our state’s seafood industry and is the hub for oil and gas exploration and production, to lose a seat at the table is to lose our voice in our future. The importance of having our own seat has never been more evident than it is now with the ongoing attack on our coast, economy, and way of life.
4. With your having been a lifelong resident of South Central Louisiana, can you tell us what a Hunt Downer energy policy would look like?
Our energy independence means our security. When our country can fulfill its needs with its own sources of energy, it cannot be held hostage by those who wish to harm us.
Responsible drilling for oil and gas is a critical part of our nation’s energy policy. However, the White House’s imposition of a six month moratorium on deepwater drilling, only two months after announcing a drilling expansion, is just one more nail in the coffin of American jobs, Louisiana’s prosperity, and our children’s future. This ban on deepwater drilling will not only harm the people of our region, it also tremendously hurts America’s push for energy independence. President Obama’s ban will force us to buy even more foreign oil. I will fight the moratorium on drilling, and have already called for the President to immediately lift the ban and comprehensively look at the issues surrounding the oil spill. We must move forward with solutions. The President and Congress should not shut down an industry when faced with a serious challenge. You fix it, improve it and push forward – that’s the American way.
Importantly, I will fight for a comprehensive energy policy in Congress that will allow our entrepreneurial spirit in South Louisiana to lead the way in the pursuit of safe drilling technology and alternative forms of energy, too. Our expertise in energy production and agriculture makes us uniquely qualified to be a key part of meeting our nation’s traditional and alternative energy needs. And this also means more high paying jobs in Louisiana for our people.
5. The federal budget is unbelievably out of balance. Can you offer a plan to bring it into line?
We first must stop the bailouts. Also, I propose that we adopt a balanced budget amendment. Like we must stop the flow of oil, we need to stop the flow of red ink! We are mortgaging our future, and in particular, the future of our children and grandchildren.
6. Congress’ approval ratings are through the floor at present. What would a Congressman Hunt Downer propose to restore respect and confidence to the House of Representatives?
I will bring to Congress principled leadership, leadership by example, integrity, and character. I am proud to be an American, and am LOUISIANA PROUD! I have taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and I will continue to work tirelessly to do so.
7. If you were to win this race, you’d succeed Charlie Melancon as the 3rd District’s representative. What is your opinion of the job Melancon has done?
As with all of us, history and the voters will determine what kind of job Congressman Melancon has done.
8. Obviously, coastal restoration is a major issue for the 3rd District. Can you describe for us what your agenda might be on that issue?
Restoring Louisiana’s coastline is not an option for Louisiana or the nation – it is MANDATORY. My plan is built around the three Rs – REBUILDING the coast, speeding up and increasing our share of oil ROYALTIES, and REVAMPING the Corps of Engineers.
First, we must come together to develop a comprehensive restoration plan supported by local, regional, state, and federal partners that will increase the level of protection for our people and grow our coastline back, while continuing to support our local economy in an environmentally sound way.
In addition, I was thankful to see our Louisiana delegation push through the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act so that our state can finally receive much needed funding from offshore oil royalties to rebuild and restore our coastline. However, with the moratorium on offshore drilling drastically lessening our capacity to produce oil, Louisiana may see a tremendous decrease in revenue from the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, causing yet more delays in restoring our coast. I will fight against the President’s moratorium, and fight for us to receive a faster and larger share of the oil royalties funding that we must have!
Also, I believe that the Army Corps of Engineers must be reformed NOW. With the oil spill in the Gulf and the mishandling of several vital proposals, it is evident that there still are systemic failures concerning the Corps. This organization is caught in a tremendous bureaucracy that prevents critical decisions from being made. A clear and recent example of this was the delayed approval of only PART of the plan to rebuild the barrier islands to prevent the oil from reaching large areas of the marshes. The Corps wanted more time to study the environmental impact of SAND berms being built to stop OIL from entering animal breeding grounds and our coastal marshes. Where is the common sense in studying if SAND or OIL is more harmful to our coast?
9. Can you talk about your interactions with national GOP organizations like the NRCC to date? What kind of response have you received from them so far?
The NRCC is supportive of my campaign. They understand our region’s dire situation, and they fully recognize the leadership and experience that I will bring to Congress. They know that I will hit the ground running and help them in their fight to take back the House of Representatives.
10. You’ve got a primary race up first against Jeff Landry, who has been campaigning and raising money for several months and building some support in polls. How do you see that race shaping up?
As of today, the primary race has four declared candidates. I am the leading candidate, and I have a broad base of legislative, military, and civic experience. I look forward to an honest campaign based on the issues.
11. It looks like the general election opponent will be Democrat Ravi Sangisetty, who like you is a first-time candidate for Congress. Any thoughts on Sangisetty as a Democrat opponent?
All declared candidates are first time Congressional candidates. This is a great example of the democratic process in America. I look forward to a lively campaign based on the issues.
12. It looks like immigration might be one of the major battles in Congress this year, and in all likelihood it will be a major issue in 2011. What’s your stance on that issue, and what do you think of Arizona’s controversial new law on the subject?
We are a nation of immigrants seeking to build the American dream. However, I strongly believe that if we are to consider ourselves a nation of laws, then all laws must be enforced. Our Federal Government must stop selectively enforcing our immigration laws. It must enforce existing laws, encourage legal immigration, and stop subsidizing those who come into our country illegally.
A critical ingredient in possessing a strong national defense is a secure border. I believe that we need to strengthen our borders by completing a fence, creating more stringent rules, and putting on the border additional border patrol personnel, and if necessary, troops. I oppose amnesty and believe that we cannot begin to control the illegal immigration problem facing our nation until we stop the “bleeding” at our borders.
In addition, I support the Governor of Arizona in her efforts to enforce the law, which currently is being ignored by our federal partners.
13. Republicans are universally opposed to Obamacare and should a GOP majority take hold in the House there will undoubtedly be a move of some kind to do away with some or all of it. How far would you go on a potential rollback? Do you favor a de-funding of Obamacare? A full-fledged repeal? Tweaks at the edges?
I am opposed to the unconstitutional mandated healthcare law recently passed by Congress. It is an unnecessary government intervention into the free market. I will fight to repeal it, and until that occurs, eliminate funding from it. Congress must listen to the American people and have an honest and open discussion about what needs to be done to fix and improve our healthcare system. Unfortunately, this did not occur.
The American people want a strong healthcare system. Importantly, changes to our system made to help those who cannot afford to pay must not result in lowering the level of care for everyone else. Congress must honestly assess of our healthcare system and identify areas for improvement in efficiency, cost, and care. Passing a 1,200 page bill to completely overhaul the largest sector of the American economy without this honest assessment does a disservice to those whom the effort of reform is supposedly trying to help.
14. Comment, if you would, on the Tea Party movement. How important will they be in the 3rd District race this year? Are you a Tea Party candidate? Will you actively seek endorsements from Tea Party groups?
The Tea Party movement is just citizens looking for straight talk and the return of the Federal Government to its founding principles of being a government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” instead of the current one that is “of the government, by the government, for the government.”
Every vote is important. As a member of the armed forces, I was willing to give my life to ensure that our citizens have the right to vote. I represent conservative values and a return to our Constitutional principles. I will seek the endorsement of groups that believe in a return to these Constitutional principles, a smaller Federal Government, opposing the Federal Government’s out of control spending frenzy, and a strong national defense.
15. Is there a particular leader or historical figure you model yourself from as a candidate or from whom you draw inspiration?
I draw inspiration from George Washington, who served our country in a time of need, and after taking off his uniform, served our country as an elected leader. Our first President was a true citizen-soldier-patriot.
16. How important are social issues to you as a candidate, and how do you think they’ll play out in this race?
Social issues are very important to me. I am strongly pro life. I believe in the dignity and sanctity of all human life. Our government must not be in the business of condoning the senseless taking of life. As a State Representative, I voted many times to preserve and recognize the sanctity of human life, such as for the Anti Abortion Act, and will continue to do so as a member of Congress. On an issue that evokes such strong emotions on both sides of
the aisle, our government must not in any way help to fund or subsidize abortions. Also, I have a strong legislative record of fighting for traditional families in Louisiana.17. One national issue which has generated a lot of local attention is the Obama administration’s proposed policy change on recreational fishing. The administration has already come down pretty hard on commercial fishing in various areas around the country. With so many of the district’s voters being fishing enthusiasts or even making their livelihood from the state’s fisheries, where do you come down on the proposed changes?
I believe that recreational fishing is best handled at the local level. We must keep the Federal Government’s tentacles off of recreational fishing!
18. Melancon’s race against David Vitter this year has brought to light a contrast between two leadership styles one often sees in elected representatives. Melancon bills himself as a behind-the-scenes worker whose effectiveness can be seen in bringing resources back to his constituents and making bills better, while Vitter sees himself as fighting for a legislative agenda that would improve the lives of his constituents. While the two are not mutually exclusive, which of the two would you say more accurately might categorize your style as a Congressman?
My leadership style includes some of both traits. I believe that a leader must lead from the front, and as a military officer, I lived that philosophy. But also, as a former Louisiana legislator and former Speaker of the House, I know that all opinions should be considered.
19. Do you have any thoughts on the controversy surrounding the Justice department’s handling of Gitmo terrorists and the potential closure of that prison?
As a Major General, I visited Louisiana National Guard military police who were performing security duties at Guantanamo Bay (Gitmo). I have personally seen the facility at Gitmo. I believed prior to my visit that it was the appropriate place to incarcerate terrorists who had been captured in the War on Terror. After seeing it with my own eyes, I am fully convinced that it is the proper place, and it must continue to be used for this purpose.
20. Finally, the President’s financial reform package is drawing howls of opposition from Republicans. What are your thoughts on “too big to fail,” and what size role should the government have in the financial sector?
The Federal Government’s additional rules and regulations on lending and financial institutions will cost us additional money — a hidden tax. Some banks are considering eliminating free checking and charging a fee to cover these hidden taxes.
Bailouts are a form of corporate welfare, and they are not fair to entrepreneurs who have to make the proper adjustments in their budget and watch their spending, but don’t get bailed out. These bailouts, in effect, reward mismanagement and punish good management. This is wrong.