Several Legislature seats still up for grabs

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 2, 2011



LAPLACE – Candidates still in the hunt for seats in both houses of the state Legislature are continuing their push for votes in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 19 runoff election.

Of the six seats linked to the River Parishes, five are on the ballot for the runoff election, one Senate seat and four state representative seats. Residents of St. John the Baptist, St. James and St. Charles parishes should expect a surge of activity over the next three weeks as candidates continue to try to get their messages across as voter turnout is likely to decrease.

The seat that covers the most ground in the region is District 2 in the state Senate, which represents portions of eight parishes including parts of all three River Parishes. Former state Rep. Elton Aubert will face off against previous political candidate Troy Brown. Brown earned 34 percent of the vote in the primary, while Aubert earned 31 percent.

Aubert said his approach in the runoff has not changed, and he hopes the campaign continues to remain positive. He said his experience will be a key factor in the campaign.

“Most of the people I represented in the House are included in this Senate district,” Aubert said. “I’m working hard to ensure my message reaches as many residents as possible.”

Aubert said job creation and education reform are the key pieces of his platform. He said the state must work harder to make sure the region is an attractive place for new business ventures.

“It is important to develop a trained workforce that has adequate career direction early,” Aubert said. “We cannot continue to waste time and resources with no results.”

Brown, meanwhile, said his grassroots and social media-based campaign worked well, and he intends to continue that route into the runoff. He said the District 2 region showed the highest percentage of voter turnout for the primaries, and he is working to ensure that carries over to the next round.

“It is an eight-parish district, and I finished first in five of the eight and second in the remaining three,” Brown said. “I am confident in my support, and I feel strongly that it will carry me through.”

Brown also emphasized job creation and said he intends to focus on implementing a state high school curriculum that offers more options for students looking outside the traditional four-year college degree. He also wants to see the state do a better job of marketing the River Parishes to the global economy.

Both Aubert and Brown said they have spoken with the other candidates in the primary in an effort to garner endorsements. Brown said he had the support of third place finisher Al Carter. Aubert, meanwhile, said he is conveying his message to other candidates but could not confirm any support as of press time.

In District 56 state representative race, Destrehan residents Greg Miller and Ganesier “Ram” Ramchandran will face off in the runoff. Miller picked up about 50 percent of the vote, while Ramchandran garnered 39 percent.

Miller said his vote total of more than 6,500 was the most of any candidate in any state representative race. He said the total has given him a boost of confidence that he hopes will carry over to the runoff.

“I wish I had more hours to do all the things I want to get done in this campaign,” Miller said. “I have made it a point to spend a meaningful amount of time with residents to get a sense of their concerns and thoughts about the future of the region.”

Miller said the biggest concern for residents continues to be adequate hurricane protection, particularly on the east bank of St. John Parish and the west bank of St. Charles Parish, and also fiscal responsibility. He said residents are interested in making sure tax dollars get spent wisely.

Ramchandran said his campaign will continue to focus on education, specifically when it comes to getting young children to embrace learning at young age.

“I want to develop a system similar to one found in Singapore where children as young as three are using computers in the classroom.” Ramchandran said. “It is important to get young children ready for the education process early so we do not lose them in the long run.”

Both Miller and Ramchandran said they have spoken to the third candidate on the race, Emile Garlepied, but neither could commit his support.

The District 57 state representative race pits St. John School Board member Russ Wise against St. John attorney Randal Gaines. Gaines pulled in 42 percent of the vote, while Wise received 29 percent.

Gaines said he is not concerned about the potential for lower turnout in the runoff. He said residents are aware of the election and are excited about it. Wise contends that it will still be a challenge to get voters to return to the polls, especially since there are no marquee races on the ballot.

Both Gaines and Wise also touted a broad appeal that crossed both parish and racial lines. Both also stressed the campaign is about issues that affect all residents and the race does not boil down to black versus white.