Gubernatorial candidates address Louisiana economy, crime before early voting opens Saturday

Published: Sep. 27, 2023 at 8:28 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 28, 2023 at 1:12 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Louisiana’s economy, job market, and crime topped the list of concerns for voters in a recent statewide Gray TV-Fox 8 poll. And with early voting for the Oct. 14 primary opening Saturday (Sept. 30), candidates for governor are telling voters how they plan to tackle the issues if elected.

Republican Stephen Waguespack and Democrat Shawn Wilson addressed the questions Tuesday during the Gray TV-Fox 8 televised debate at the University of New Orleans.

Wilson said he would work to expand job opportunities in numerous fields.

“We have an opportunity before us to invest in the types of jobs that are going to be here for the next generation,” Wilson said. “Whether it’s renewable (energy) in the world of solar or hydrogen. All of these are opportunities for us to grow and build an economy that we can all be proud of and one that will cause people to come to Louisiana.”

Waguespack said increasing jobs is part of his plan, along with clearing obstacles to companies investing in the state.

“I don’t care if it’s white collar or blue collar, or low-tech or high-tech, we have to provide those opportunities here,” Waguespack said. “And the key is workforce development, training kids for the jobs of tomorrow. It’s also creating a business climate where people want to grow and invest here in Louisiana. That means we have to reduce our tax burden, we have to reduce our regulatory burden. We have to clean up our legal environment.”

The leading candidates for Louisiana governor took the stage for a debate hosted by Gray Television.

Republican John Schroder said Wednesday he believes other problems affect job creation.

“We’re not going to create more jobs and improve the economy until we take care of the basic things here in Louisiana,” Schroder said. “And it’s the biggest reason people are leaving: Poor public education and a lack of choices and crime. That’s a given.

“People are leaving for the same reason people aren’t coming. So, we have to concentrate on how we keep people here. How do we help businesses that are here already?”

Republican Sharon Hewitt said she would address the problem on more than one front.

“They all want more technology, savvy employees. So, I will build a kindergarten-through-12th grade curriculum that includes computer science,” Hewitt said. “That’s one piece, the workforce piece. The other piece is you have to have a business climate where businesses want to come here and they want to work here.”

Hunter Lundy, who is running as an Independent, said ending poverty is key.

“So, we’re going to have economic development,” he said. “So, yes, jobs will be created. We will use our trade schools, we will use our community colleges, we will use our high school kids. And the trades are paying really well today.”

Crime was voters’ next-biggest concern, according to the poll.

Schroder said he would take action at the state level and work with local crime fighters.

“The governor controls the state police, the governor does not control anything else,” Schroder said. “But we will have the best troop in America. We are going to invest in them, we’re going to train them, we’re going to educate them, but we’re also going to hold them accountable. And then we’re going to work as partners with our chiefs, our sheriffs across the state.”

Hewitt said, “We need more boots on the ground and the way we do that is to retain the police and the troopers that you have by better pay. These men and women are putting their lives on the line every single day and so we need to increase the pay. We also have to have more state trooper academies and training academies for local police.”

Waguespack agrees more law enforcement officers are needed.

“We have to find more police officers,” he said. “With the rise in inflationary wages, quite frankly they’re going to other jobs that pay better and are less dangerous. We have to pay police, train them and back them up when they risk their lives to keep us safe. We also have to double down on investing in technology.”

Wilson said he would do whatever possible to drive down crime.

“That deals with paying officers,” he said. “It deals with making sure we have technology and tools that are out there, to ensure that our police officers at the State Police, at the sheriff’s department and local levels, are all working together.”

Lundy said he would have an open ear when it comes to local communities and crime.

“First of all, I’m the governor that’s going to not criticize mayors and sheriffs and DAs and single them out. I will meet with them,” Lundy said.

And each said they are ready to tackle the state’s insurance crisis.

“Whether it’s adjuster accountability, whether it’s timelines and obligations of the insurance company to make sure that we’re treating our citizens fairly. No family should be putting at risk their future or taking care of their parents or raising their children as a result of an insurance company not addressing the issues that they should,” Wilson said. “This is a crisis that we have to address.”

Schroder said he is working on the crisis now.

“I’m already tackling it. I’m meeting with national people,” Schroder said. “You know, this problem is big. It’s way bigger than any one individual, bigger than any one industry. But you have to hold people accountable and I’m going to get everybody at the table and I’m going to have partnership with the commissioner. I’m going to be in the room and we’re going to work on solutions. The biggest bear in the room is our legal climate in this state.”

Lundy said he would make sure insurers treat property owners fairly.

“We can form our own mutual if we have to,” Lundy said. “We don’t want to. We want them to come here, so we’ve given them some incentives. And yes, $45 million is not enough, but they’re not going to come here and cherry-pick. They’re going to write for every parish or they’re not going to write for any parish.”

Waguespack said, “At a minimum, it has to have an incentive program to bring in new insurers, provide regulatory flexibility so we can control some of those rates, authorize the insurance commissioner to push back on excessive rates. But the last piece is the big one: We have to have legal reform if we truly want to reduce our rates.”

Hewitt, like most other candidates, agrees a special legislative session on insurance needs to be called early in 2024.

“The first thing we’ll do is to have to have a special session,” she said. “We know again that there are a number of areas where our state is out of sync compared to other states, in terms of how we regulate the market and our legal system.”

Republican Jeff Landry was not available for comment for this story. Kate Kelly, Communications Director for Landry’s campaign said, “There’s no way he can do it today, but we will work on another date sometime this week. I’ll let you know.”

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