District 16 Senate candidates talk St. George, fiscal reform and abortion at forum

    Five candidates vying for the District 16 state senate seat being vacated by Sen. Dan Claitor shared their views on St. George incorporation efforts, fiscal reform and abortion at a forum hosted Monday afternoon by the Baton Rouge Press Club. 

    All five—Reps. Steve Carter and Franklin Foil, both Republicans, Bob Bell, also a Republican, Libertarian Everett Baudean and Democrat Beverly Brooks Thompson—agree voters should be able to decide the St. George incorporation issue. Thompson, however, was the only candidate willing to state a position on St. George becoming a city.

    “We’re better together,” she said, explaining she would vote against the initiative on the ballot.

    Each candidate—except for Baudean—pointed to fiscal reform as the No. 1 issue facing legislators this upcoming session. Foil and Thompson agreed a constitutional convention was needed for fiscal reform, while Bell says the state can’t wait for a constitutional convention. Carter wants reform through legislation or through a constitutional convention. While agreeing fiscal reform was important, Baudean says continuing criminal justice reform should be more of a priority. 

    “How important is funding early childhood education when you’re still putting children’s parents in prison?” Baudean asked during the forum. 

    Bell, Carter and Foil each said they’re pro-life and don’t support exceptions for rape and incest. Thompson and Baudean both believe abortion should only be discussed between a woman and her doctor. 

    Each candidate—except for Baudean—also say they’re against legalizing recreational marijuana, though a few of the Republicans noted they may be willing to consider decriminalizing it. 

    “We should not completely legalize it. … But it’s sweeping thousands of people into prisons just for being users,” Bell says. 

    Foil also says marijuana users shouldn’t be jailed, saying instead that they should get treatment for chemical dependency issues. Baudean says full legalization of recreational marijuana is the next step the state needs to take towards criminal justice reform. 

    While Thompson and Foil pointed towards public-public partnerships to address the dismal traffic conditions in Baton Rouge, Carter says courage is what’s needed to alleviate infrastructure funding issues. 

    “You spend so much time in traffic, businesses will not come here simply because the roads are bad,” Carter says. “People need to understand that and do whatever’s necessary.”

    (Editor’s note: This story has been updated since its original publication to more accurately reflect the position of Beverly Brooks Thompson on the St. George incorporation issue.)

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