Louisiana voters have focused most of their attention this election season on the race for governor. That's understandable. Louisiana has only one governor, whereas we have 105 state representatives and 39 state senators. Giving short shrift to legislative races is a serious mistake, however. Capitol veterans know that the real 'action" in state government " the place where public policy decisions are hashed out year after year " takes place in the Legislature. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita have combined with legislative term limits to produce a 'perfect political storm" this year. Even before the first vote is counted, more than half the House of Representatives and nearly half the Louisiana Senate won't be returning to Baton Rouge next year. That represents a potential sea change in Louisiana's political landscape.
However, changing the faces in Baton Rouge won't necessarily change the direction of Louisiana. To get our state moving, we need a combination of maturity, vision, intelligence, integrity and new ideas. With that mix in mind, we offer the following endorsements in area legislative contests:
Senate District 2 " Incumbent Ann Duplessis has represented eastern New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward with integrity. She worked to combine the seven assessors' offices and supported levee board reform, and she consistently works well with her colleagues from other parts of the state to advance the cause of her district. She is challenged by the man she beat four years ago " a throwback to the 'bad old days" of Louisiana politics. We urge voters to re-elect Sen. Ann Duplessis.
Senate District 3 " This district desperately needs a new senator. The incumbent is among the least effective " and least trusted " members of the Legislature. Challenger Shawn Barney offers a blend of new ideas, integrity and a record of service to the entire community that will serve this district well.
Senate District 4 " Incumbent Edwin Murray is arguably the most effective member of the New Orleans delegation. A quiet workhorse, he passed the 'Broadway South" bill and brought home millions for City Park and local infrastructure needs. New Orleans needs Ed Murray in the Senate, and we heartily endorse his re-election.
Senate District 5 " Term limits are forcing a change in this district, and voters there are blessed with two excellent candidates. Frankly, we can't choose between Rep. Cheryl Gray and former Judge David Williams. Gray is a proven legislator who works well with her colleagues to get things done, and Williams has a long record of public service devoted to reaching across racial and economic lines. We wish they could both win seats in the Senate.
Senate District 6 " Incumbent Julie Quinn won this seat in a special election in 2005 and quickly proved her ability to deliver for her constituents while supporting needed reforms. A former Jefferson School Board member, she has been a champion of public education reform. She deserves a full term in the Senate.
Senate District 7 " Veteran incumbent Francis Heitmeier's retirement has touched off a political war in this West Bank district, with one candidate recklessly attacking Heitmeier's entire family. Looking past the rhetoric, we are extremely impressed by David Heitmeier. An optometrist and businessman, Heitmeier has an unmatched grasp of complex public health-care issues which have confounded lawmakers and governors for decades. His district and all of Louisiana will benefit from that expertise, and his low-key style will be a breath of fresh air in political circles.
Senate District 8 " This is another district where attacks against a well-known name have marred the landscape. Veteran state Rep. John Alario is one of the most effective lawmakers that the New Orleans area has seen in decades. With Jefferson Parish losing so many legislative veterans to term limits, Alario will be a needed presence in the Senate.
Senate District 9 " Here again, voters must choose between two very capable candidates. We can't. We therefore endorse both state Rep. Steve Scalise and former school board member Polly Thomas. Both are honest, energetic public servants. Scalise is a tough fiscal conservative, and Thomas is a proven consensus builder.
Senate District 10 " House veteran Danny Martiny deserves a chance to continue serving the Kenner area as its senator. He brings a keen sense of fairness and frankness to the legislative process, and he is respected by colleagues in both parties.
House District 78 " Metairie resident and Harahan business owner John Illg knows this diverse district well. He has served on various civic and public advisory boards and thus is prepared to serve.
House District 79 " Attorney and civic activist Tony Ligi has earned the right to ask voters for their support in his Kenner and Metairie district. He is a consensus choice among local leaders for good reason.
House District 80 " First-time candidate Glenn Lee is an energetic yet thoughtful conservative who worked in the sheriff's office for more than a decade as well as with many civic and political groups. He is ready to serve and deserves the chance to do so.
House District 82 " Journalist Christopher Tidmore may be best known as the man who first exposed U.S. Sen. David Vitter's hypocrisy on 'family values" issues, but he is even more impressive as an intelligent conservative who also understands the potential for government to make people's lives better. He is a co-founder of the 'Broadway South" concept, which became law earlier this year.
House District 83 " Attorney Danyelle Taylor is a lifelong resident of this West Bank district who knows its issues and challenges firsthand. She will join several other West Bank newcomers in bringing fresh leadership to the House.
House District 85 " Gretna Councilman Ricky Templet is a business owner who has proven his commitment to public service and civic involvement. He founded the Gretna Heritage Festival, now one of the metro area's biggest annual attractions, and has served his constituents well on the city council.
House District 91 " This diverse district is blessed with several good candidates, and we can only narrow the choice down to two: former prosecutor Walt Leger III and assistant Criminal Court Clerk Natacha Hutchinson, also an attorney. Both offer energetic leadership and solid records of civic involvement.
House District 92 " Former Kenner interim council member Michael McMyne has a record of independence and integrity. An author and motivational speaker, he will bring a unique skill set to the legislative process.
House District 93 " Incumbent Rep. Karen Carter is one of the cornerstones of the New Orleans delegation. She has deep roots in her district and in the community, and she knows how to navigate the halls of power to turn ideas into legislation.
House District 94 " New incumbent Nick Lorusso won this seat less than seven months ago. We endorsed him then because we liked his no-nonsense approach to lawmaking. His two main challengers, Adrian Bruneau and Deborah Langhoff, are likewise impressive, but we think Lorusso deserves a chance to serve a full term.
House District 98 " Several good candidates are seeking this seat, but one stands out in our view: attorney Neil Abramson. A New Orleans native who spent his early years in Gonzales and Baton Rouge, Abramson brings a unique perspective to the task of representing our city's interests. He is smart, focused, down to earth and ready to tackle the issues that confront this diverse district.
House District 99 " Incumbent Rep. Charmaine Marchand has done a good job of representing this hard-hit district after Hurricane Katrina. She has focused on issues relating to children and families, and she deserves another term to help her constituents recover from the storm.
House District 100 " Incumbent Rep. Austin Badon earns high marks for leading reform efforts and for bringing needed state dollars into his district for infrastructure repairs after the 2005 hurricanes.
House District 101 " Incumbent Rep. Cedric Richmond has been a leader in the city's delegation and the Legislative Black Caucus since winning this seat in 1999. He will be among the senior members of the House if he is re-elected this year, and New Orleans will benefit greatly form his experience and leadership.
Amendments 1 & 2 " These two proposals deal with state supplemental pay for police and firefighters and would enshrine additional protections of the program in the state Constitution. Amendment 1 would constitutionally guarantee the recent raise from $300 a month to $425 a month, and Amendment 2 would expand coverage to port authority cops and firefighters in New Orleans. We recommend voting FOR both amendments.
Amendment 3 " This proposal tightens the purse strings on the state's retirement system by requiring lawmakers to identify specific funding sources for any new benefits that are granted. It also requires that new debt must be paid off within 10 years. We recommend voting FOR this amendment.
Amendment 4 " This amendment extends a previously adopted property tax exemption on consigned artworks to jewelry on consignment as well. It corrects an inadvertent oversight in the law. We recommend voting FOR this amendment.