NEW ORLEANS — Five of the top candidates to be Louisiana’s next governor took on critical issues facing Louisiana residents in a gubernatorial debate hosted by WWL-TV Thursday night.
Front-running candidate Jeff Landry, the state’s attorney general, did not attend the debate, saying he thought the Urban League being involved would make it biased. The Urban League helped sponsor the debate but did not have a say in the questions.
The candidates included: Democratic former Transportation Secretary Shawn Wilson, independent Hunter Lundy got 7 percent and three Republicans, business lobbyist Stephen Waguespack, Treasurer John Schroder and State Senator Sharon Hewitt from Slidell.
The issues discussed included crime, insurance affordability and abortion.
All of the candidates realized that the ability to purchase affordable insurance and the issue of crime were major issues in the race.
Schroder: “Crime fighting isn’t all about putting people in jail. It’s more about how do you deter that crime. Mental health is a huge problem.
Hewitt: “I passed a bill to be tough on fentanyl manufacturers and these clandestine labs. Young people, quite often are making bad decisions because of these counterfeit pills. We know that when you throw the book at the dealers and those who are manufacturing… that we will eradicate fentanyl, just as we did heroin.” Also wants to increase number of boots on the ground.
Waguespack: Wants to back, pay and train more law enforcement. Wants more technology – license plate readers, body cams, street cams, using state surplus dollars to solve more crimes with out people having to testify because they’re scared of retribution.
Lundy: Education linked directly to crime. Have to have children who can read and write. Start at pre-K. Direct link between education and reading and incarceration.
Wilson: I will make the investments we need for local law enforcement to build the force they need locally. Invest in mental health and education.
Hewitt: We have 2 problems and it’s not because we have too many hurricanes. We regulate the industry differently and we’re too litigious. Says that’s why insurance companies don’t want to work here.
Waguespack: The biggest immediate crisis we have in Louisiana. A special session would be called. Already working on putting together the agenda. Would create “adjustor training academies” in coastal universities so people who understand the state can work on your claim.
Lundy: Companies have left because insurance companies lie. Says insurance CEOs paid themselves millions in bonuses. Would call a special session and would call in insurance companies.
Wilson: People reeling from cost of insurance. Would have special session but would make more laws to make insurance companies pay in timely manner. Wants to hold big insurance companies accountable.
Schroder: We have to entrepreneur our way out of this. Some of the fixes we don’t know yet. Call a summit and everyone – construction industry, insurance companies and legal community will be at the table.
Four of the five candidates said that they fully support the state legislature’s restrictive measures on abortion, with Democrat Shawn Wilson saying he trusts his wife and daughters to make the decisions for themselves. The other four candidates said they would not support a ballot initiative on abortion rights.
Hewitt said that she would not support allowing abortion pills to be sent through the mail.
Teacher Pay Raises:
Schroder said he would support giving teachers a permanent raise. “We will find a permanent way to handle it. We’ll also find a way to raise the pay of state police.
Hewitt said she would pay teachers at or above the southern average and raises would be permanent and not a stipend.
Waguespack said he would “make sure they will be paid.” He also emphasized that teachers have too much put on them, having to sometimes serve as counselors for troubled students in addition to the teaching.
Lundy said, “We have to pay our teachers, we have to pay our law enforcement. We have to pay our firefighters. If we don’t treat people that take care of us the right way, how will the rest of the nation look at us?”
Wilson said “If you talk about paying at the southern regional average, you’re talking about paying them at the top of the bottom half.”
The candidates seemed to uniformly be unhappy with the "yes or no" questions, especially the last one having to do with the State Police and racial issues.
Here are some of the other answers on the quick response questions.
Increasing the gas tax to fund infrastructure problems
All five candidates said they would not support increasing the state’s gas tax to improve roads and bridges.
Should closing the wealth gap between black and white families be a priority
All candidates said "yes"
Second minority majority district:
Wilson – Absolutely
Schroder – I will do whatever the law says
Hewitt – Same
Waguespack – Same
Lundy – Same
All five candidates said no to adding COVID to mandated vaccines for school.
Support increasing state minimum wage from $7.25
Hewitt: It's time to have the conversation
Lundy: Yes, support increasing minimum wage.
Does the State Police have a problem with racially-biased policing:
Wilson: Yes. The fact that I said yes, isn't an indictment against all officers.
Schroder: They have some problems, but overall no.
Hewitt: I don't think you can say we have an across-the-board problem, so my answer would be no, but in that case it was a problem.
Waguespack: That was a horrific incident, but you can't disparage the entire department because of that incident.
Election Day is Saturday, Oct. 14.