Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Statewide elections coming before voters

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Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Obviously hungry for new leaders at the state level, New Orleans voters had three opportunities yesterday to hear from various candidates for state-wide office, now that campaign season is ramping up after the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, and PSC Commissioner Scott Angelle were generally congenial and complimentary of each other as they addressed a group of 1,000 predominately Westbank voters at the Alario Center very early yesterday morning.

Edwards, a state representative, lawyer and West Point grad, has a sincere, measured approach and delivery that belies his West Point training. Dardenne reminds listeners of his many years of scandal-free service in the State Senate, as Secretary of State and finally Lt. Governor. With a cadence and delivery style ala Edwin Edwards, Angelle is a relatively conservative Cajun populist who started as a young Acadiana elected official and made his way up as Bobby Jindal’s head of the Department of Natural Resources, a Jindal-appointed Lt. Governor, and finally to the PSC.

All took their turn bashing Jindal and stressed the need for long-term tax code reform. Among the suggestions was Angelle’s desire to create an Exemption Review Conference. Both he and Dardenne want to create an internet sales tax to protect Louisiana businesses from out-of-state online competitors. Edwards addressed the need for long-term solutions rather than a quick fix.

Edwards also reminded voters that he was the first to stand up against many of Jindal’s misguided policies seven years ago when Angelle was part of Jindal’s team and Dardenne was serving alongside Jindal as Louisiana’s Secretary of State. U.S. Senator David Vitter made his remarks via video due to votes in Washington.

All three candidates clearly understood the importance of the maritime industry to our region’s economy including the Harvey Canal and committed to prioritize capital outlay funds to support it and the region’s infrastructure needs – roads, highways and bridges. All agreed that the TOPS program had value but needed tweaking – which was probably appreciated by audience member Dr. James Callier, Taylor Foundation Director.

Dardenne called Algiers Federal City symbolic of New Orleans’ rebirth; Angelle said it should focus on centers of excellence; Edwards said it a tremendous asset that needed funding to live up to its potential. All supported providing the necessary funding for the new LSU Hospital, common core, early childhood education, sex education and keeping all fourteen of Louisiana’s public colleges and universities. They agreed that oil and gas companies contributed to coastal land loss and committed to fund a new airport onramp for the new terminal.

Only Angelle, a pro-life father of five, supported the teaching of creation science. It was also interesting to note that all three would not litigate against same sex marriage in Louisiana if the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in support.

Also working the room at the Alario Center was former Plaquemine Parish President Billy Nungesser, a candidate for Lt. Governor and many New Orleans, Jefferson, and Plaquemine elected officials including Councilmember Nadine Ramsey and term-limited State Senator Ed Murray. Several candidates have already announced to replace Murray.

Dardenne later hosted a large luncheon crowd of female voters and delivered his standard message of his primary accomplishments as Lt. Governor – continuing to increase tourism using fewer resources.

Yesterday evening, Edwards, Baton Rouge Parish President Kip Holden who is running for Lt. Governor, and LSU law professor and candidate for Secretary of State Chris Tyson spoke to a crowd at the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.

Edwards said that voters should be happy to be electing a new governor since Bobby Jindal is “the least popular governor in America.” Jindal has not been taking care of home – Louisiana – explained Edwards. Jindal’s home should be anywhere but Louisiana, he continued.

Before turning his attention to public service, Lt. Governor candidate Holden, an African-American, lived in New Orleans and worked at WWL Radio. A serious speaker, Holden attributed his successful career at the Legislature and his ten plus years as Parish President in majority-white East Baton Rouge Parish, in part to his Scotlandville, Louisiana high school English teacher who he said shaped and enriched him by the lessons she taught, and prepared him for everything he would encounter. The teacher just happened to be OPDEC President Councilman James Gray’s mother. “I’ll be the salesman for the whole state,” Holden said, touting his economic development successes in Baton Rouge.

Secretary of State candidate Tyson, the son of a late federal judge, is a young, bright mind who wants to make his mark in Louisiana. Married to a New Orleans-born physician with three small children, Tyson is an attractive and capable representative of the next generation of young leaders who will surely make favorable impression with voters interested in change.


Tongues are wagging that State Senate President John Alario, who attended yesterday’s gubernatorial forum at the Alario Center named for his father, might be considering retirement instead of running for re-election. A popular politician who has an uncanny ability to bring legislators together, Alario has delivered countless millions to the region and has been a trusted confidant of many governors.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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