By DIG Staff
Monday was a day of boasting and naysaying in Baton Rouge, when the top five candidates for the Louisiana’s 6th District seat in the United States House of Representatives, an incumbent Senator and a former president graced its streets.
Paul Dietzel (R), Whitney Lenar (R), Dan Claitor (R), Garrett Graves (R) and Edwin Edwards (D) each have at least 10 percent of their district’s support, and were invited to the Press Club for a public forum. The candidates shared plans for improving their district (which encompasses East Baton Rouge Parish), their definitions of a conservative, and their stances on marriage equality, among other topics.
Improvements to District 6
Dietzel: “One of the projects that I was asked about prior to this forum was the Comite Diversion Project. That project was actually started before I was born and part of the reason it still hasn’t gotten done is because of bureaucracy – because the federal government has gotten too big. Also, I’d like to see a project that would make it easier for commerce to make its way from the northern part of the district to southern part.”
Graves: “It’s great that we have these wonderful natural resources in Louisiana. But our problem is that we can’t utilize them because we can’t access them. The statistics speak for themselves: the Baton Rouge area has the worst traffic in the country for a city of its size. The day we announced our campaign we talked about the problems associated with that. This state has misprioritized its funding of transportation over the years.”
Whitney: “We need to concentrate on energy independence. We are rich in natural resources: natural gas, oil…Infrastructure, balanced budgets, flatter and fairer taxes – we can work on abolishing the IRS to make it easier for us to pay our taxes.”
Edwards: “Within 90 days I intend to call a high-level conference with the Governor’s office, the Mayor’s office, the transportation departments of the state and federal government, traffic planners and engineers to help us find a solution to the horrible problem we have with congestion on I-10 through and around Baton Rouge.”
Claitor: “I would like to push for fewer, fairer, flatter taxes. By doing that, we would stimulate the economy, create more jobs and more taxpayers. We certainly have problems with traffic and we certainly need to continue I-49, but certainly at the local level we need to address the issue of flooding tax.”
Stances on Marriage Equality
Dietzel: “Ever since I was a boy I believed that marriage is between one man and one woman and that no government action should be able to alter that.”
Whitney: “I’m definitely a pro-traditional marriage and pro-marriage candidate – it’s between a man and a woman only.”
Graves: “The electorate of this state had this question posed to them and the voters of this state overwhelmingly voted to define, in our state constitution, what a marriage is. As a representative, I intend to represent the decision of this state.”
Edwards: “I too am for traditional marriage, but traditional partners have financial and political advantages that others simply don’t have. I think that we should adopt a rule in Louisiana that allows for civil unions that provides the same benefits to same-sex couples that married couples have. I think that’s fair.”
Claitor: “First of all, all of God’s people are precious and we’re told to love one another. But at the same time, I agree with Judge Feldman’s decision. It’s a state’s rights issue.”
However, down the street, Incumbent Senator Mary Landrieu and the U.S. 42nd President Bill Clinton stole the show at the Hilton, where hundreds gathered to support the senior senator’s bid for a fourth term. Landrieu’s speech focused on “Louisiana First,” which has become her campaign’s mantra, and the value of her position as chair on the Senate Committee on energy and Natural Resources.
“I am proud to be the chair of the Energy Committee – if there was ever a time for Louisiana to have this position, it is now,” she said. “We know how to produce energy and we do it well. We do it better and we know how to protect the environment and we can use our resources to create wealth for our country – for our children and our grandchildren. We have the gavel!”
She also took the opportunity to point out that Dr. Bill Cassidy, one of her opponents in the Senate race, has voted “against” Louisiana several times.
“When we voted on aid for Louisiana after Isaac, he voted no,” said Landrieu. “We voted yes. Can you believe that? You need someone who will stand up and support you every day.”
“We have 600,000 people in this state with student loans. When I asked him if he would join me in lowering student loan interest rates from 11 percent to 3 percent and double Pell Grants – which we can certainly pay for – he said no. He’s doing things in Washington to hurt us, not help us. So let’s do something to hurt him at the polls.”
Clinton spoke for half an hour, extolling Landrieu’s strengths and her opponents’ weaknesses, but also the importance of overcoming differences and working together
“Where people are working together across the lines that divide society, great things are happening,” he said.
Clinton also said that this race would be determined by “who shows up.” Two people that will be showing up are Halli Kennerson, a 21 year-old student of political science at Southern University, and Khizir Qureshi, a 20 year-old biochemistry/pre-med major at LSU.
“I like that she stands up for women who are victims of abuse and I think she’s better for Louisiana,” said Kennerson. “She’s been in this for a long time; she knows what she’s doing. In some cases it’s good to have ‘out with old, in with the new,’ but in her case, I think she’s done a good job and she will continue to do a good job.”
“She has accomplished for Louisiana and she is the most pro-Louisiana candidate,” said Qureshi. “She actually has some substance to her campaign. Bill Cassidy has done nothing positive that I have heard about. I don’t know what he stands for – I just know that he’s not Obama and he doesn’t agree with Mary Landrieu.”