Rather than offer a single slate of endorsements from the Hayride, in this cycle since we have a larger and more diverse staff of writers than in previous years we thought we’d put that diversity to use in having each of our writers offer selections on the upcoming races in symposium format.
In this post, our writers pick their favorites in legislative races, though not all of us have opinions in each race since we aren’t all following every one. See here for endorsements in the governor’s race, and here for endorsements in other statewide races and with constitutional amendments. Later today comes another symposium with recommendations for selected local races.
Note: there are some races in which we didn’t offer endorsements not because we don’t have favorites but because the races aren’t seen as competitive.
FOR THE HOUSE
House District 5
MacAoidh: Alan Seabaugh. Seabaugh is likely to win easily over leftist Democrat Eileen Velez, a serial Obama donor who has been dropping direct mail in a heavily-conservative district to push Medicaid expansion and defend Planned Parenthood. He’s one of the best conservatives in the entire legislature and he’d deserve our endorsement even against a much better opponent.
House District 7
MacAoidh: Steve Casey. There are three Republicans running: Larry Bagley, Perry McDaniel and Steve Casey, and I’ll confess I don’t know a whole lot about the three. What I do know is that Casey, a pastor and chaplain who has never run for political office, would bring to the House another rock-solid voice for constitutional governance and cultural conservatism. He’s not the kind of guy who will cut deals on core principles, and we could use a few more legislators with stiff spines like him.
House District 9
MacAoidh: Nobody. Dodie Horton and Mike McHalffey are both Republicans, but none of the major conservative groups endorsed either one. This race is to succeed Henry Burns, who is now running for the Senate, and Burns wasn’t the greatest – but he’s going to be looked back on like a Reagan after one of these people takes over.
House District 13
MacAoidh: Jack McFarland. McFarland is a Republican, currently the President of the Winn Parish Police Jury and President of McFarland Timber, meaning he’ll bring 20 years of experience as a business executive to the Legislature as well as some legislative experience on the local level. His opponent is Philip Lawrence, who’s a Democrat and an actor – if you saw Beasts of the Southern Wild he was Dr. Maloney. Lawrence also was a Gulf War vet, serving as a Marine intelligence officer, so he at least has a colorful curriculum vitae. But the outgoing incumbent Jim Fannin switched to the GOP for a reason; District 13 isn’t interested in Democrats anymore.
House District 22
MacAoidh: John Stephens. Stephens is an underdog against independent Terry Brown, and that’s a shame – because he’s a full-spectrum conservative who would definitely improve the legislature. Hopefully the turnout numbers from early voting showing this to be the most conservative primary electorate in modern history will serve as a rising tide lifting Stephens’ vote; we need a lot more like him.
House District 32
MacAoidh: Llewellyn “Biscuit” Smith. Like Stephens, Smith is a solid conservative who would need to win over incumbent Democrat Dorothy Sue Hill if we’re to improve the quality of the House but might face an uphill battle. There is a third candidate in the race, Zollie “Ty” Pearce, who might siphon off enough votes from Hill to make for a runoff and give Smith a chance to win in November.
House District 36
MacAoidh: Either one. Mark Abraham and Keith DeSonier are both Republicans who look like solid conservatives, though they come from slightly different backgrounds – Abraham is a former LSU football player and a businessman, DeSonier is an Army veteran and a doctor who is chairman of LAMPAC and the Louisiana State Medical Society’s Council on Legislation. Both have done great TV ads and both are very likable. We think either one would be an improvement over outgoing incumbent Chuck Kleckley.
House District 39
MacAoidh: Julie Emerson. Julie is a friend and a great conservative, and she’s got a real shot to take out Stephen Ortego. That would be a huge victory, as Ortego, a self-important clown who disgraced himself by characterizing veterans as homeless bums on the floor of the House and compounded his shame by lying about it after being called out for it here at the Hayride, is seen by the Louisiana Democrat Party as one of its rising stars. If Julie knocks him off, it’s a double victory – that seat gets a better state rep and the Democrats’ bench gets shorter.
Kevin Boyd: Julie Emerson. Emerson is young and could offer fresh ideas to Baton Rouge. Even better, she’s challenging one of the biggest douchebags in the legislature in Stephen Ortego.
House District 45
MacAoidh: Andre Comeaux or Jean-Paul Coussan. Both are Republicans and have reputations as solid conservatives. The third candidate in the race, Jan Swift, is also a Republican but not known as particularly conservative. Any of the three would be OK, and a likely improvement over the outgoing incumbent Joel Robideaux.
House District 51
MacAoidh: Beryl Amedee. It’s long past time that Joe Harrison was put to pasture; the fact the FBI is investigating one of the worst legislators in the House is a good indication he’s overstayed his welcome. Amedee, a Terrebonne Parish Councilwoman and Republican State Central Committee member, is running an aggressive campaign with a decent chance to finish him off.
House District 52
MacAoidh: JJ Buquet. Buquet runs his family’s beer distributorship in Houma, and he understands the mess regulation can make for the private sector. He’s run a campaign which has focused on the big issues facing the state, not just relying on the old standard of being pro-God, pro-gun and pro-life. If you haven’t seen the policy videos on his campaign’s Facebook page, you should check them out.
House District 53
MacAoidh: Lenar Whitney. Whitney has always been one of the most reliable conservative votes in the legislature, though her stock took a tumble during a forgettable run for Congress last year. She also waited too long to decide to run for re-election which created a vacuum two challengers raced to fill. Nevertheless, we’d be crazy not to want to see her sent back to the House for another term; there is never a question about whether Lenar will vote for limited government and fiscal restraint.
House District 59
MacAoidh: Tony Bacala. Bacala just retired as the Chief Deputy in the Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office and it appears he’s a shoo-in to replace outgoing incumbent Eddie Lambert. Bacala has a fairly impeccable resume of 37 years in law enforcement, and he’s at least talking the talk with respect to conservative policy leanings. There is at least the hope he could be an improvement over Lambert.
House District 66
MacAoidh: Anybody but Darrell Ourso. Three other candidates are challenging the incumbent, who was narrowly elected as the not-quite-conservative Republican by a mere 73 votes over the actually-conservative Republican Baton Rouge Metro Councilman Buddy Amoroso in a special election this spring. Upon arriving in the House, Ourso proceeded to make virtually every bad vote possible, and it’s imperative to get rid of him before he does any more damage. The three challengers – Rick Bond, who ran third in the special election earlier this year, Rusty Secrist and Rick Edmonds, are all acceptable alternatives and sound largely the same. Whichever one makes the runoff with Ourso, I’m for.
House District 68
MacAoidh: Steve Carter. Carter has made a few votes I wish he hadn’t, and watching his opponent Robert Cade Cipriano, who apparently worked for a brief time with Mary Matalin while he was in college (or shortly thereafter) unleash a flurry of campaign activity has been entertaining. But Carter was instrumental in steering a vital package of education reforms (including tenure reform and school choice) through the legislature in 2012, and for that alone he deserves re-election.
House District 69
MacAoidh: Ryan Heck. Our readers might know that I’ve been helping Heck, who is a personal friend, advertiser and contributor to this site. My relationship with him began as a political one and became personal after we got to know each other; at first I respected his efforts to bring Uber to Baton Rouge as a member of the East Baton Rouge Metro Council. He’s a fiscal conservative and a passionate advocate of the free market, who is also in the midst of a startup business launch in the concrete industry, and he would be a massive upgrade to the House and likely to become a force in it. I don’t know a whole lot about his opponents other than Mark Holden is a Democrat trial lawyer whose campaign signs are atrociously ugly and Paula Davis is a registered lobbyist married to a registered lobbyist being shepherded around by the outgoing incumbent Erick Ponti, who was one of the dimmer bulbs in the legislature and is now a lobbyist.
Kevin Boyd: Ryan Heck. If we want a legislature that actually doesn’t suck, we need to elect better legislators. Among those people who would be a better legislator than what we have now is Ryan Heck in District 69. Heck is an accomplished businessman and Baton Rouge Metro Councilman who will bring a much needed voice of fiscal sanity in the Capitol. His main opponent, Paula Davis, is a lobbyist who is being backed by other lobbyists. She’s more of the same.
House District 72
MacAoidh: Hunter Carter. I’m endorsing a Democrat here, but in John Bel Edwards’ district you’re not going to get a Republican elected. And actually, that’s why Carter is running as a Democrat. He’s as conservative as that district could possibly elect and he’s run an excellent race, securing the endorsement of several of the state’s business groups.
House District 94
MacAoidh: Nick Lorusso. Lorusso has irritated a decent number of folks on the conservative side and I would be willing to listen to what Stephanie Hilferty had to say, but the fact that she has cashed in with a ton of trial lawyer money is a disqualifier to me – particularly since if the right things happen an aggressive and overdue tort reform agenda will be in front of the legislature next year.
Kevin Boyd: Nick Lorusso. Lorusso has racked up a pro-business voting record in Baton Rouge. He’s generally one of the good guys up there. He deserves to be reelected on his own merits. What seals the deal is the fact his opponent, Stephanie Hilferty, is a sockpuppet for the trial lawyers and radical environmentalists.
House District 103
MacAoidh: Ray Garofalo. A solid conservative who hasn’t compromised his principles despite a district that is getting less friendly toward them, Garofalo deserves as much support as we can give him. The fact the trial lawyers hate him like poison is enough for him to deserve our support; he must be doing something right, and he did when he was a strong supporter of eliminating the jury trial threshold in this year’s session.
Kevin Boyd: Ray Garofalo. Garofalo is one of the most conservative members of the legislature. He voted against most of the tax increases at every stage, he was the only member of the Civil Law Committee who backed Mike Johnson’s religious freedom bill, and he’s being targeted by liberals as a result. We need to keep our good guys in Baton Rouge.
FOR THE SENATE
Senate District 1
MacAoidh: Sharon Hewitt. Pete Schneider isn’t the worst candidate in the world, but he’s old news, having been termed out of a House seat years ago. Schneider is also a bit too old-school for the current legislative times, and he’s drunk a bit too much of the anti-fracking Kool Aid to be palatable. Hewitt is smart, articulate and tough, and has a political future that will begin with winning this seat.
Kevin Boyd: Sharon Hewitt. Hewitt is a former oil and gas engineer who understands the needs of Louisiana’s biggest industry. She’s very personable and has been described as “having grit.” She deserves election on her own merits. Even more so when you compare her to her opponent, former State Rep. Pete Schneider. Schneider is a mediocre little man who raised taxes by $1.4 billion while in the legislature. Schneider has also stupidly compared fracking in St. Tammany to the government stealing property through eminent domain.
Senate District 9
MacAoidh: Conrad Appel. Appel is in a little bit of trouble against legislative gadfly John LaBruzzo, who started off running for Jefferson Parish Council and then changed his mind before qualifying to run against Appel – and left up a lot of his yard signs, slapping stickers on them to change the office he was running for. “New and improved; now for SENATE!” is how the presentation more or less goes. But LaBruzzo is competitive with Appel in this race because the latter was disappointingly tone-deaf on the Common Core issue, hanging in there way too long after Common Core became a liability. He meant well, but the obstinance on something that was definitely not a hill to die on has created a race where there should never have been one. Common Core notwithstanding, Appel is one of the state senate’s most thoughtful and consistent economic conservatives.
Kevin Boyd: Conrad Appel. Appel is one of the most pro-business State Senators. He has been one of the good guys and deserves reelection on his merits. This is even more true when you factor in his opponent, former State Rep. John LaBruzzo. LaBruzzo is a Brett Geymann with a yat accent. He will champion the most red meat conservative issues and will often fail spectacularly to advance them. He was an extremely ineffective representative and there’s no reason to believe that will change in the state Senate.
Senate District 12
MacAoidh: Beth Mizell. This is an opportunity to flip a seat from Democrat to Republican, and Mizell nearly did it four years ago when she fell some 400 votes short of taking out Ben Nevers. Now that Nevers is term-limited Mizell has an inside track, and that’s a good thing. She’s a down-the-line conservative who would become one of the Louisiana GOP’s rising female stars with a win.
Kevin Boyd: Beth Mizell. Mizell is the most qualified Republican running in the district. She has a chance at taking a seat formerly held by Democrat Ben Nevers. This will also open up northern Tangipahoa and Washington Parishes to Republicans.
Senate District 13
MacAoidh: Derek Babcock. Babcock is a good guy and a committed conservative who got trounced in this same matchup with Dale Erdey four years ago. Here’s hoping things go differently this time, as Erdey is awful. He’s one of the worst big-government meddlers in the state legislature, and when he’s not trying to pass stupid nanny-state laws like the one he authored specifically outlawing checking Facebook while driving he’s busily trying to chisel pork out of the state treasury. We could use an upgrade here.
Kevin Boyd: Derek Babcock. I don’t know a whole lot about Derek Babcock but I do know Dale Erdey has been useless in the State Senate. Erdey is one of the biggest RINOs in the legislature. He has supported tax hikes and opposed school choice. Erdey needs to go and Babcock needs to replace him.
Senate District 15
MacAoidh: Dalton Honore’. You won’t see too many Democrats on this list of endorsements, but Honore’ rates one. He’s a reasonable vote in the House and a colossal improvement over Rep. Regina Barrow, who is also running. You can’t get a great conservative in District 15, but you can get somebody who can be bargained with. Honore’ is that; Barrow is not.
Senate District 16
MacAoidh: Scott McKnight. McKnight does have a lot of ties to the blue-blood Baton Rouge Area Foundation crowd, which means he will occasionally get some pressure to make a crony-capitalist vote or two and that could be a risk with him. That said, he looks a good bit more conservative than Dan Claitor has been – and Claitor, who has developed a habit of needlessly alienating Republican voters, hasn’t shown himself willing to take on the fundamental fights for Louisiana’s future that are coming. Let’s give the new guy a chance.
Kevin Boyd: Scott McKnight. This is a case of upgrading representation. Dan Claitor is not one of the worst RINOs in the legislature, but he is still a RINO. He’s cashing in with the trial lawyers to try and save his seat. McKnight is a conservative businessman who will oppose the tax increases Claitor has supported in the past.
Senate District 20
MacAoidh: Mike Fesi. Successful businessmen, particularly those in industries not dependent on government contracts or state policies directly affecting their bottom lines, tend to make quality legislators, and Fesi, a successful businessman in the oil patch, qualifies. Norby Chabert isn’t the worst RINO in the state senate, but let’s face it – if Barack Obama hadn’t set the Louisiana Democrat Party ablaze with his offshore oil moratorium in 2010 Norby would still have a D next to his name. We like some new blood here.
Kevin Boyd: Mike Fesi.Norby Chabert is one of the worst RINOs in the State Senate. Not only has Chabert voted for tax increases, but he has treated his campaign account as a personal expense account. He doesn’t have the maturity to serve. Fesi is a conservative oil and gas man who understands his industry’s unique challenges. District 20 will be well served by Fesi.
Senate District 29
MacAoidh: Joshua Joy Dara. Dara is a black Republican, which in recent years has translated into nearly impossible odds to beat, but he’s one of the most interesting and fantastic candidates running this cycle – and it’s our fault at the Hayride that we haven’t done more to profile him.
Here’s a quote from Dara, who is a practicing attorney and the minister at the 3,000-member Zion Hill Church in Pineville, about running in a majority-black district as a Republican…
“Some have suggested I run as an independent or a Democrat, but that wouldn’t be true to my calling,” he said. “I’m very conservative, and I don’t need to pretend to be something I’m not.”
Dara, who immigrated to America from Nigeria, has managed the endorsement of practically all of the major political figures in north-central Louisiana of both parties. The outgoing incumbent, Rick Gallot, is backing him – as are Democrat leges Kenny Cox, Patrick Jefferson, Katrina Jackson and Jeff Hall and Republicans Gerald Long and Lance Harris.
He’s a star in the making. Watch him. The word is he’s likely to win and Louisiana will elect its first black Republican state legislator in decades.
Senate District 33
MacAoidh: Mike Walsworth. Walsworth is one of the best conservatives in the Senate and deserves an endorsement in his own right, but Vance McAllister is running against him.
Yes, that Vance McAllister.
Senate District 35
MacAoidh: Stewart Cathey. Jim Fannin is known for his time as the House Appropriations Chairman during some of the worst-performing budget processes in the state’s history, and voters are being asked to reward him for that by giving him a promotion. Fannin isn’t at fault for all of the budgetary failures of the Jindal years, but he hasn’t exactly fixed any of the problems. Let’s get some new blood in the legislature.
Kevin Boyd: Stewart Cathey. Businessman Stewart Cathey is an opponent of the tax increases and higher spending that his opponent, State Rep. Jim Fannin, has helped pass as Appropriations Chairman. Fannin is an old style Louisiana politician who needs to be put out to pasture.