Meet the Candidates: Larry Sorapuru, House of Representatives District 57
Published 8:33 am Wednesday, September 6, 2023
Date of Birth: March 26, 1956
Profession/ Current Employer/ Retired: Retired from 36 years at Monsanto Company
Why did you choose to run for State Representative? Over the past few years, I have felt a sense of urgency in preparing for, and protecting the community from natural disasters. After Hurricane Ida I worked with Mr. Gary Watson of the St. John Community Action Board to help prepare and serve meals to people who had just lost their homes, their jobs, everything. It was those people, their faces, their stories, that moved me to take this step. There was nothing in place to help people after Ida. We called everyone in our network to find supplies and get them trucked in. We then secured a warehouse and helped unload and delivered those supplies, making sure that donations went to the people most in need. I realized then that there is a lack of leadership among our politicians, a failure to put into place the systems needed to provide people’s most basic needs during a crisis. I decided then and there to run for state office because I have the experience and leadership skills needed to move us forward. I can provide a bridge between state and local government to get the resources and funding we need on the ground to improve conditions in our communities. I can build coalitions with nonprofits, businesses and churches to get support to those who are underserved or socially isolated. We can’t wait anymore until after a disaster happens to plan for our response and recovery. Now is the time to roll up our sleeves and get every stakeholder at the table to plan for this new normal. Now is the time to seek input from the best minds out there to find sustainable solutions to help our community adapt and build resilience.
What makes you the most qualified candidate for this position? I understand how local, state and federal government is designed to function. I spent four years as Councilperson of St. John the Baptist Parish. During this time, I helped expand and upgrade parish water plants, secured funding for affordable housing, supported development of the Ochsner ER, extended the West and East Bank bike paths, facilitated dual enrollment opportunities for community college students, engaged warehouse developers in bringing businesses to both Banks, and secured funding to replace crumbling infrastructure and repair hurricane-damaged homes. I am currently serving as a Governor appointee to the Board of the Lafourche Levee Basin District. My work on the Levee Board with the CPRA [Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority] and Corps of Engineers has given me a clear vision of the steps needed to address floods in the years ahead. I lobbied Washington D.C. for funding for the West Shore levee project and Maurepas water diversion which is being built now. Two major projects I worked on with the Lafourche Levee Basin District is raising 18 miles of levee on the West Bank of St. Charles, and securing funding for an $100 million flood gate to stop major tidal surges from flooding the communities around Lac des Allemands. These projects will protect thousands of homes in the River Parishes. I also represented the River Parishes on the Governor’s Climate Initiatives Taskforce in development of the State’s Climate Action Plan; and I served on Representative Matthew Willard’s Contraflow Task Force to develop a coordinated plan to evacuate residents during natural disasters. I have lent my support to Together LA and Together Baton Rouge’s Lighthouse Projects to increase neighborhood resiliency by installing commercial-scale solar power systems. Perhaps most importantly, I have served my community as just another of its members, as a member of the West Bank Stakeholders Organization, the West St. John Civic Association, the St. John the Baptist Parish Democratic Committee, the Wallace Indians, and Concerned Citizens of St. John Parish. My whole life has been preparing me for this moment.
What is the No. 1 challenge impacting our district, and how do you plan to address this? That is a difficult question to answer because everything is relative. To me, the biggest challenge impacting our district would be the lack of affordable housing and the rising costs of energy and high insurance. For my kids it may be the lack of high paying jobs. For my father it may be the lack of access to affordable quality health care. For my grandkids I can tell you it’s the lack of investment in our education system. Because our children are our future, I have to put that first before anything else. If we are going to survive future challenges and changes in the years and decades to come, we need to invest in our children and schools. This means increasing educator and support staff salaries, equipping our public schools with technologies needed for the digital age, and supporting early education and after-school programs. It means investing in programs at our community college to build a workforce with skills to support a clean energy economy, and build resilience to natural disasters. We have to prepare our children for a future that may be fraught with challenges brought on by climate change, energy transition, natural resource depletion and disinformation. Without education, without access to books and ideas, and without an open dialogue about our history and past failures, we will not evolve as a people. To put it plainly, without education, civilizations collapse.
What would you like to accomplish in the next four years? I am aware of the fact that there is much we need to do. As with all things we have to prioritize our problems and issues. My priorities will be directed by the will of the people. When I campaign across the parish, I want to hear from you. Let me know what you need. What are your concerns? These last few months I have talked to as many people in the District as I could, and I have heard you. My priorities will be directed by you, by the will of the people. On my first day in office, I will immediately go after funds to fix our crumbling infrastructure, build affordable climate-resilient housing, and strengthen our drainage and flood protection system. This is an essential first step if we want to safeguard our citizens and bring down insurance rates. Besides investing in our education system, I am committed to supporting sustainable development in the district in ways which prioritize small local business owners, while protecting and valuing our natural resources and historical and cultural assets. This is critical if we want a better quality of life for generations to come. Other concerns you have shared with me revolves around public safety and wellbeing. I believe to achieve that we need to invest in our district’s recreational facilities and social services, expand access to affordable health care, advocate for our elderly, disabled and veteran populations, and support our police, fire fighters and emergency responders. I have also heard your concerns about our failing democracy, and towards that end, I vow to pursue any and all opportunities to strengthen our democratic institutions. I will push for bills to expand early and mail-in voting. I vow to challenge partisan gerrymandering efforts and reform election campaign finance laws. Ultimately, I am here to serve the people, not to push my own agenda or line my pockets. My job is to listen to you and then secure the resources we need to achieve the community’s goals. What I will not do, however, is step on the rights of others to achieve that. I intend to fight for women’s reproductive rights, for environmental justice, and to protect the civil rights of all people, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or sexual orientation. That’s why they call this service. I vow to protect, serve, and put the interests of each member of this community first and foremost before my own.