Published 12:00 am Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Editor and Publisher

LAPLACE – Geri Broussard Baloney says her experience working as a lawyer and on the Pontchartrain Levee Board has prepared her to become the next state representative in District 57.

Nickie Monica responds by asking &#8220where is the hurricane levee we have needed here for so long and still don’t have.”

Monica says his 12 years of experience working in St. John Parish government has prepared him for the Louisiana representative position.

But Baloney says Monica has relied too much on his administrative assistant for answers to questions about key issues, and the rapid fire work on the legislative floor is nothing like parish government.

And so begins the second round of campaigning for the District 57 race, as Monica and Baloney finished one-two in the primary this past Saturday, and now aim directly at each other in the runoff which is set for November 17.

Monica, the current St. John parish president, won in the primary on Saturday by a large margin, garnering 29 percent of the total in a five person field, with 4,426 votes. Meanwhile, Baloney edged out several contenders in the race for second, to earn the runoff spot, as she finished with 18 percent on 2,710 votes. She was only 32 votes ahead of St. James Parish attorney Randal Gaines, who had just over 17 percent, while local businesswoman Natalie Tatje and School Board President Gerald Keller were also very close with 16 and 15 percent, respectively.

Baloney now must make up over a 1,700 vote difference in the runoff, something she seems confident about doing.

(See DISTRICT, page 2A)

&#8220You have to remember that 70 percent of the people did not vote for Nickie Monica, and he is the standing parish president, which shows you most of the people want somebody different,” she said. &#8220My job now is to reach out and touch as many people as I can. I think I am more qualified to adapt to the Louisiana Legislature than Nickie is, and my previous positions have qualified me for this job.”

Monica naturally didn’t see it the way Baloney was evaluating the vote totals.

&#8220I’m very humbled by the overwhelming support I received in St. John and St. James parish. The results show that people recognize the work I’ve done, and that will carry into the runoff,” he said.

Monica continues to point to a long list of accomplishments in St. John as parish president for the past eight years.

&#8220You can look around and see the things that I’ve been the leader to get done,” he said. &#8220There is the War Veterans Home, the National Guard Center, a new water system, a new sewer system. And that’s just the beginning of it. I believe you can look at that and know that I can get things done, and that’s something that will continue when I go to the state Legislature.”

Both candidates point to education as a key priority for them if they are elected state representative.

&#8220My priorities for this area?” Baloney responded. &#8220Education, education, education. I will work to get teacher pay up, but more than that, I have seen other areas where they offer financial incentives to teachers for achieving certain levels of certification. We need that here.”

Baloney, who said her mother was a teacher for 37 years and that inspired her to make education a priority, also wants to get public high schools to teach trades so students can get out of school and go right into good paying jobs.

&#8220I was a public defender and dealt with a lot of kids who had gotten in trouble and quit school. When I asked them why, they always said they had lost interest. But if we have them working towards a trade so they can make good pay when they get out of high school, you won’t see them standing on the corners getting into drug dealing and such,” she added.

Monica said he will work closely with state leaders to make sure proper funding comes to St. John to help bring about &#8220the best educational system we can have here.”

Monica also said he has specific plans to get new roads built here, and to improve the TOPS program to fund graduate work for students.

&#8220TOPS currently costs $131 million a year. For another $30 million a year, we can give tuition to kids in graduate school. And studies say that when local kids get through graduate school, they mostly stay in the home area to work,” he said.

Monica’s program for road work in the area is tied to rededicating a 16 cent gas tax to road work in the state.

&#8220Right now the state is $14 billion behind with a backlog for road work. It will take forever to get work done here, and we desperately need some new roads here to take the pressure off Airline,” he said. &#8220I’m the only one with a specific plan to get that money back to roads, which it was intended for in the beginning.”

Heading into the runoff Monica simply said, &#8220I’m the only one with 12 years experience in government. Experience is the bottom line for this position and I have it.”

&#8220This is a critical time for Louisiana,” Baloney said. &#8220I’ve worked with the Legislature a lot already, and along with being a small business owner, I know I’m the most prepared to do this job.”