Editor’s Note: A guest post from Brian Landry, LABI Political Action Vice President
One election cannot change an entire way of life for our state, but it can set us back to a time when free enterprise was just a dream.
Louisiana residents will head to the polls to vote on statewide and local races this Saturday, yet surveys show that many voters are still trying to determine which candidates best reflect their beliefs.
For four decades, year after year, the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI) has defended the principles of free enterprise and advocated for policies that lead to economic growth. These battles over the years – often against many of the same union leaders and aggressive trial lawyers spending millions of dollars this campaign cycle – have led to key victories that have gradually improved our business climate. However, we still have much work to do and these successes over time have contributed to a false sense of security by some that assume Louisiana will automatically continue to pursue conservative economic policies.
This weekend’s election for the governor’s office, the Legislature and the Board of Secondary Elementary Education (BESE) is a critical moment for Louisiana. Nothing is guaranteed, and the election this Saturday will determine the path we choose from here.
LABI’s four affiliated political action committees – NORTHPAC, EASTPAC, SOUTHPAC and WESTPAC – unanimously announced their endorsement of Sen. David Vitter for governor over Rep. John Bel Edwards last week. LABI PAC members overwhelmingly voted to endorse Vitter based on his pro-business policy positions and lifetime voting record with LABI.
Vitter scored 95 percent with LABI from 1992-98, while Edwards’ votes earned him 29 percent from 2008-15. Only one other representative scored lower than Edwards in the last four years! The voting records paint a clear picture for voters and are available online at www.labi.org. The business community should be extremely concerned if Edwards is elected this Saturday.
The battle for BESE continues with two races in the 4th and 6th District headed into the runoff. In October, outgoing BESE President Chas Roemer endorsed Jason Engen to replace him in District 6; however, Engen faces a tough opponent, Kathy Edmonston. Edmonston has been critical of many of the educational reforms such as school choice, vouchers, teacher accountability and higher standards that have led to improved outcomes for our children. LABI PAC-endorsed Jason Engen wants to stand up for parents and children to make sure their needs are put first.
In BESE District 4 (Shreveport area), union leaders are working hard to elect their education-establishment candidate Mary Harris. LABI PAC-endorsed Tony Davis is a businessman who strongly supports efforts to improve the efficiency of our system, connect kids with the jobs in their communities and empower parents to make the best decisions for their child.
LABI’s PACs have endorsed candidates in three important Senate races in the runoff. In the Shreveport area, LABI endorsed two former representatives: Ritchie Burford for Senate District 34 and Henry Burns in Senate District 36.
Both Burford and Burns are among LABI’s top 10 highest scoring legislators during their respective terms, and they are both facing candidates who are heavily funded by trial lawyers and trial lawyer-funded PACs. Burns’ opponent, trial lawyer Ryan Gatti, has collected over $50,000 from lawyers and has been actively involved in a landowner lawsuit dealing with development in the Haynesville Shale. Burford’s opponent, John Milkovich, is receiving ground support from union leaders.
LABI supports Beth Mizell for Senate District 12 in the Washington Parish region to replace term-limited Sen. Ben Nevers over union-supported Mickey Murphy. Mizell led the primary with 43 percent but the Democratic Party is desperately trying to keep this seat and has put $175,000 behind Murphy to do so.
House of Representatives
LABI’s PACs have endorsed candidates in eight House of Representative runoff races. In House District 32, an area just north of Lake Charles, LABI-backed “Biscuit” Smith is challenging incumbent Dorothy Sue Hill. During her eight-year tenure in the Legislature, Hill has consistently voted against common sense education and pension reforms.
In Lafayette, two candidates vying for House District 45 have been co-endorsed by LABI’s PACs: Andre Comeaux and Jean-Paul Coussan.
In the bayou area, LABI’s PAC endorsed one challenger and one incumbent in two important races. In the first race, incumbent Joe Harrison finished in second place last month. Finishing first in the House District 51 primary was LABI PAC-endorsed businesswoman Beryl Amedee. Harrison’s low voting scores do not reflect the conservative positions of many in his district, especially his votes against education bills to empower parents and put accountability in our schools. He also offered an amendment to support those suing the oil and gas industry at a time when these jobs are in jeopardy. In the second race, LABI’s PAC eagerly endorsed incumbent Lenar Whitney in House District 53, who has a 98 percent voting record with business. Her opponent is Tanner Magee, who only recently switched parties just before running for office.
In Baton Rouge, LABI’s PAC endorsed both Paula Davis and Ryan Heck in their bid to replace Rep. Erich Ponti in House District 69.
LABI also endorsed challenger Rick Edmonds in his effort to unseat Rep. Darrell Ourso, who scored 53 percent in his first year as representative for House District 66.
The run for governor has left Rep. John Bel Edwards’ seat open for election. Former Rep. Robbie Carter will face political newcomer Hunter Carter, who earned an early endorsement by LABI’s PACs in a crowded primary field. Robbie Carter is a trial attorney who has self-financed much of his campaign.
In the greater New Orleans region, LABI high scorer Rep. Ray Garofalo faces a St. Bernard councilmember who recently switched from the Republican to the Democrat Party – a move coordinated by a group of New Orleans trial lawyers trying to unseat tort reform advocate Garofalo. Garofalo authored a bill to lower the jury trial threshold for civil cases and his brave efforts ruffled the feathered nests of a few trial lawyers.
All elections have consequences, and this cycle has more than most. So, don’t let someone else speak for you on Election Day. Take your voice and your vote to the polls on Saturday and support pro-growth candidates who will help us keep Louisiana’s economy moving in the right direction.