Publisher endorsements: Steve Carter for mayor-president

Baton Rouge McCollister

I hope we can all agree Nov. 3 will be an important day for the future of our parish, state and nation—and we should exercise our right to vote. There are many candidates and issues on the ballot that deserve our time and attention to make an informed decision.

It is sad to see how politics has divided our nation. I am certain this next month will be vicious and very personal—which is the norm for political campaigns. You can also count on the media to focus on everything negative in the world, another norm. Their clear political bias continues to erode the public trust, which is at an all-time low.

There were those who suggested I just pass on making any endorsements this time in order to avoid controversy and personal attacks on my views. But this is America, the land of the free, where speech is protected and even if one disagrees with my position, we all still have the right to express it in a civil manner.

There are those across the country trying to intimidate people to be silent. Our freedoms and rights came with a high price on the battlefield and I cherish free speech. I also know we often pay for our “free” speech with retribution from others.

Early voting begins Oct. 16 and Election Day is Nov. 3. Mail-in ballots are available. There are many good candidates and I commend those offering to serve the public. After reviewing information on the candidates, some interviews, watching debates, talking with others, and knowing many personally, I offer my endorsements in select races below:

EBR Mayor-President: Steve Carter

As our executive editor, JR Ball, and I interviewed the six major candidates (Frank Smith declined), we noted that our parish government is a billion-dollar business with some 4,500 employees and this is the position of CEO. All claimed they were the best person to fill it. But they don’t get to decide—you do.

Each in the field has a passion for Baton Rouge and deep roots. They have a wide array of experiences they bring as well as a variety of age. (We often say more young people need to be involved in our city, and Jordan Piazza is 32. He stepped up and has ideas on many issues. Impressive.) They all care about the future and want to make a contribution to their hometown. I applaud that.

In the runoff four years ago, I endorsed then-former state Sen. Sharon Weston Broome, writing that in a global economy and battle for attracting talent, we must be innovative and think big. I wondered who could unite our parish and work effectively with the Metro Council to move our community forward. I said then, there are no guarantees and “the proof is always in the pudding.” Well we’ve had the pudding.

I admit that at times it got very hot in the kitchen for the mayor over the past four years. And she brought calm in some very racially tense situations. I have known Broome for a long time and supported her in the past for her legislative roles. She discovered being CEO is different. Everyone says the mayor is a nice person, honest and respected. But she has not united the parish and I see a lack of big and bold ideas.

MovEBR is a major accomplishment but it came with the backing and funding from the business community, including Jim Bernhard and Mike Wampold. Then we live in a parish where the crime is rising and the population over the past three years is declining. And during the pandemic while businesses were either laying off or furloughing workers, our CEO did not, despite revenues falling. Was that wise?

Unfortunately, like a nice coach who doesn’t win enough, many want a change and a desire to compete for a championship—and that is where I am in this race.

I believe former state Rep. Steve Carter would be the best choice for mayor-president. Those who know and worked with him in the Legislature describe him as “upfront and honest,” and when the heat came on tough issues “he didn’t melt.” They add Carter was humble and “did the right thing and didn’t worry who got the credit.”

Carter headed the Capital Region Legislative Delegation and developed good relationships across the aisle, listened and brought folks together to accomplish things. He was a leader for education reform and school choice and chaired the House Education Committee exhibiting a strong backbone.

Carter has good experience but doesn’t believe he has all the answers and is not afraid of seeking bold ideas. He wants to build the championship team and talent to execute those new ideas and improve Baton Rouge. Play for championships. Unite us around winning.

Like four years ago, there are no guarantees. You decide who is your CEO. I choose Carter.

President: Donald J. Trump

Some believe this election is a battle for the meaning of America. It is in that context that I made my decision, rather than a choice between the two party representatives I witnessed Sept. 29 on the debate stage. That was an embarrassment for our country and the office of president.

But while many of us may not be happy with the choices, the ballot will still say Donald J. Trump versus Joe Biden. They represent their respective party principles and a philosophy that defines America. Their antics and words often diminish that.

I didn’t vote for Trump—or Hillary Clinton—in 2016. Trump’s tweets and actions are often offensive and even disgusting. Unpresidential.

But he has a record over the past 47 months that includes achievements such as lowering taxes, growing a very strong pre-pandemic economy, appointing conservative judges and standing up to China. He is a strong supporter of the military, the Second Amendment and the unborn. And he believes in a good America, despite our flaws.

I compare that to former Vice President Joe Biden, who has been on the hill for 47 years, including eight as vice president. What happened on his long watch? How does he suddenly have all the answers?

While Biden claimed in the first presidential debate, “I am the Democratic Party,” I don’t believe that for a second. Rather, other Democrats are in control of Biden’s agenda and “the woke are leading the weak.” That concerns me and influenced my decision. And who are “the woke” that I despise and scare the hell out of me if put in charge of America? How about Nancy Pelosi, Chuck Schumer, Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Adam Schiff, Barbara Boxer, Ilhan Omar, Jerry Nadler, Rashida Tlaib—and of course, Kamala Harris. I could go on but that’s 10 liberal Democrats (some socialists) vs. one Trump.

Biden will mean trillions in new taxes and a Biden (Green) New Deal, which would basically bankrupt and destroy Louisiana.

I am not happy with the situation, but this election is a binary choice. So, I choose to remain in the frying pan with Trump, rather than jumping into the fire.

U.S. Senate: Bill Cassidy

Senator Bill Cassidy has been called a “true champion” for Louisiana’s small businesses, earning the endorsement of the National Federation of Small Businesses, where he has had a 100% voting record.

As a doctor in the Senate, Cassidy has been a respected leader on health care issues and worked across the aisle to address surprise billing by hospitals and the high cost of prescriptions.

Cassidy has been a public servant since his first days working at Earl K. Long Hospital. In 2014 he was elected to the Senate. He now serves on the Finance Committee, the Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions Committee, the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, and the Veterans Affairs Committee.

Cassidy has represented Louisiana well in serving the people of our state and made a difference for America.

U.S. House-6th District: Garret Graves

Some things don’t change. I looked back to see what I wrote about Garret Graves when he first ran for Congress in 2014. I described him as “independent, intelligent, hard-working and a man of character.” That statement is even more true today. Most politicians settle in and let the power go to their head expecting to “be served” instead of “serve.”

Rep. Graves may be the hardest-working member in Congress. A true public servant. But he is also very effective and his list of accomplishments is long, representing billions for Louisiana and our coast, flood recovery, Comite Diversion canal and our interstate. He is a proven leader.

U.S. House-5th District: Luke Letlow

Luke Letlow represents a new generation of leadership in Louisiana, but with the traditional values of the 5th District.  He has prepared to lead.

Current Rep. Ralph Abraham is retiring. He has endorsed Letlow, saying, “Luke Letlow knows the 5th Congressional District better than anyone, and more importantly, he truly cares about the people of this district.”

Abraham served with distinction and I am confident Letlow will follow in his footsteps.

Appellate Court
1st circuit, 2nd District, Subdistrict 1, Div. A: Judge Chris Hester

19th Judicial District Court:

Div. D.: Will Jorden
Div. K.: No endorsement
Div. G.: Judge Richard Anderson
Div. M.: Judge Tiffany Foxworth

Family Court

Div. D.: Judge Hunter Green

Justice of the Peace

Ward 3, District 2: Steven Sanders
Ward 3, District 3:
Larry Spencer

EBR Metro Council

There are 40 candidates for Metro Council. Old and new faces. I simply must defer comment until the runoff. The voters will narrow the field, but recent dysfunction displayed over reopening bars and acquiring a tire shredder put some incumbents on the hot seat.

Constitutional amendments

Public Affairs Research Council provides an excellent guide online, at parlouisiana.org, that outlines the pros and cons for each proposed amendment. Here is my position on each:

No. 1: YES. Do you support an amendment declaring that to protect human life, a right to abortion and the funding of abortion shall not be found in the Louisiana Constitution?

Abortion is legal in all states based on U.S. Supreme Court ruling. If that changes, Louisiana already has a “trigger” statute in place that would ban abortion. This amendment would affirm that the state constitution does not contradict that position and end up in court. As PAR says, “The purpose of this amendment is to place the abortion issue in the hands of the people through their elected officials and their statewide vote on this amendment, rather than with their state court judges.” This is a pro-life vote.

No. 2: YES. Do you support an amendment permitting the presence or production of oil or gas to be included in the methodology used to determine the fair market value of an oil or gas well for the purpose of property assessment?

This would allow consideration of a well’s oil and gas production when valuing it for property tax assessment. As PAR notes, this change was supported by both assessors and the oil and gas industry. Louisiana has been unusual in the past and this is a common sense approach.

No. 3: NO. Do you support an amendment allowing for the use of the Budget Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund, for state costs associated with a disaster declared by the federal government?

The rainy day fund was established for revenue shortfalls. While we certainly want funds to help those in need, the federal government provides those emergency funds. If such a disaster did cause a shortfall in revenues to the state, then the rainy day funds would be available under the current law. While the intent is well-meaning, it is not necessary and could drain the fund intended for fiscal disasters. We should leave it alone.

No. 4: YES. Do you support an amendment limiting the growth of the expenditure limit for the state general fund and dedicated funds, and to remove the calculation of its growth factor from the constitution?

We need to restrain the growth of government, which gets bigger every year. Currently, the growth factor in the constitution is based only on the annual personal income. This change would allow for a statute that averages four items: three-year average growth in personal income, the change in state gross domestic product, inflation and population change. This method is projected to slow the growth rate from the past.

No. 5: YES. Do you support an amendment authorizing local governments to enter into cooperative endeavor ad valorem tax exemption agreements with new or expanding manufacturing establishments for payments in lieu of taxes?

This provides options (PILOTs) for local governments to use instead of the ITEP program for manufacturing. Currently a plant might get an eight-year exemption and then begin paying property taxes. This would allow a local government and plant to agree on a schedule of payments beginning year one and running over a period of time in lieu of paying property taxes later. Industry would pay sooner but have a consistent schedule and may pay a little less. These are used in other states.

Many local government associations and business groups support this amendment. The assessors oppose because they lose control of property tax and power.

No. 6: NO. Do you support an amendment increasing the maximum amount of income a person may receive and still qualify for the special assessment level for residential property receiving the homestead exemption?

The current income limit is $77,030 and rises with inflation. It would increase to $100,000 and remain at that level until 2026 and then increase with inflation. This amendment only applies to those age 65 and over, disabled vets, surviving spouse of military killed in action and the totally disabled. This benefit freezes the assessment of home, not their taxes. Any new millage rates are added and paid.

However, the median household income for those ages 65-74 is $53,465 so a majority of seniors are currently covered. Local governments need a stable tax base and this seems unnecessary for a select few.

No. 7: YES. Do you support an amendment that creates the Louisiana Unclaimed Property Permanent Trust Fund to preserve the money that remains unclaimed by its owner or owners?

This is money the state gets each year but belongs to others. Any unclaimed excess went into the general fund. But claims, thanks to improved technology, have gone up from 45,000 claims in 2018 to 207,000 in 2019. This would put the money belonging to citizens in a trust fund which could be invested (50% into equities) and only the gains and interest each year would go into the general fund. A sound approach.

Statewide Proposition

Allowing sports betting (each parish decides individually): NO.

Many argue this simply makes an already popular activity legal while also getting business back from Mississippi and generating tax revenue. But it is also an expansion of gaming in a state that not only has the nation’s second-highest poverty rate but also allows the most gambling option types in the country.

People are free to spend their money how they choose but I have consistently opposed the expansion of gambling in Louisiana because of a concern for those who lose and their families.