This Saturday (Sept. 30) is Election Day across Louisiana. Two statewide offices are up for grabs in special elections -- insurance commissioner and secretary of state. Also on the ballot are a special election for state representative in New Orleans, two school board seats in Jefferson and 13 proposed amendments to the state constitution. In last week's issue, we made our recommendations regarding the proposed constitutional amendments. This week, we offer our endorsements for secretary of state, insurance commissioner and state representative. Above all, we urge all our readers to go to the polls this Saturday and cast their ballots.
Secretary of State
The secretary of state is Louisiana's top elections official, which makes this office a critically important one in these politically charged times. For the better part of two decades, the office was held by the late Fox McKeithen, who won the post as a Democrat in 1987 and later switched to the GOP. To McKeithen, party affiliation was inconsequential. He administered his duties and oversaw state and local elections with an even hand. His office also maintained business and archival records in excellent fashion, making it a model of efficiency in a state known for waste and mismanagement. Since McKeithen's death in July 2005, the office has been ably run by his former first assistant, Al Ater, a longtime friend who chose not to run for the post.
In considering the candidates for this crucial office, we weighed not only their qualifications and records but also their reputations. Above all else, the secretary of state must be someone who is trusted by all sides and who will rise above partisan politics. We give the nod to state Sen. Jay Dardenne of Baton Rouge.
Dardenne has been a leading reformer on several fronts. Most recently, he authored legislation to prohibit the secretary of state from getting involved in political campaigns. He also championed reforms of the state Ethics Board and river pilot system, as well as tax reform. Most of all, however, he has demonstrated even-handedness in his approach to complex, controversial issues. He will not use the office to promote personal or political agendas, and we believe he will continue a record of excellence begun decades ago by Fox McKeithen. We therefore urge our readers to vote for Sen. Jay Dardenne for secretary of state.
Commissioner of Insurance
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita showed just how vulnerable Louisiana's coastal communities are in the face of natural disasters. The storms also exposed weaknesses in America's insurance network -- particularly among insurers of homes and businesses. In the hurricanes' wake, thousands of Louisiana citizens feel abandoned by insurance companies they trusted to cover their losses. Going forward, many homeowners are finding it next to impossible to obtain affordable insurance. While the commissioner of insurance is often seen by consumers as an ombudsman against insurers who don't pay claims, the commissioner's primary focus in the next few years should be encouraging more insurance companies to do business in Louisiana -- because that's the best way to lower rates and make good coverage available to most homeowners.
This is not a job for someone who intends to learn the ropes as he goes along. That's why we recommend incumbent Commissioner Jim Donelon for the job. Donelon has years of experience dealing with complex insurance issues as both a legislator and an attorney. Hired by former Insurance Commissioner Robert Wooley as executive counsel and later as first assistant, Donelon became interim commissioner when Wooley resigned for personal reasons earlier this year. Since taking the job, Donelon has led the fight to extend deadlines for homeowners and businesses to file claims against insurers and to protect consumers' rights. He also has worked hard to attract insurance companies to Louisiana so that rates can be competitive. Most of all, he helped keep the beleaguered Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. solvent after a record number of claims in the wake of Katrina. We think Louisiana will be well served by giving Jim Donelon a chance to continue in this very important post.
State Representative, District 97
J. P. Morrell
House District 97 lost its representative when former Rep. Arthur Morrell was elected clerk of Criminal District Court in May. In the race to succeed him, we recommend his son, attorney J. P. Morrell.
Many, including this newspaper, take a dim view of political dynasties. At the same time, a person's last name should not automatically disqualify him or her from public service. In Morrell's case, he is amply qualified and ready to serve. His experience as a public defender will enable him to attack the problems plaguing the local criminal justice system. He also has been involved in his community -- before Katrina -- as a neighborhood civic leader and public school volunteer. As a new state representative, he will hit the ground running. We encourage our readers in District 97 to elect J. P. Morrell as their new state representative.
Amendment 1 -- FOR
Amendment 2 -- FOR
Amendment 3 -- FOR
Amendment 4 -- AGAINST
Amendment 5 -- AGAINST
Amendment 6 -- AGAINST
Amendment 7 -- FOR
Amendment 8 -- FOR
Amendment 9 -- AGAINST
Amendment 10 -- FOR
Amendment 11 -- FOR
Amendment 12 -- FOR
Amendment 13 -- FOR