Church Meets Government debate held in the midst of early voting

Published 3:56 pm Friday, October 6, 2023

LAPLACE — Choice International Ministries of LaPlace hosted “Church Meets Government: Meet the Candidates Debate Night” on Tuesday, Oct. 3.

A political forum hosted by Bishop Antoine Jasmine and moderated by Minister JaVon Ophelia Butler gave candidates an opportunity to share their platforms with the St. John the Baptist Parish Community. The forum was streamed live on social media, and local citizens were given the opportunity to send in questions chosen at Butler’s discretion.

“The idea behind it is to create a relationship with the church and the government, that we are not separated, we are inclusive,” Jasmine said. “We are both on the same team.”

The following candidates were present to participate in the debates:

Louisiana Senate District 2 —

  • Chris Delpit

Louisiana Senate District 19 —

  • Marilyn Bellock
  • Incumbent Gregory Miller

State Representative District 57 —

  • Albert “Ali” Burl
  • Russell “Russ” Wise
  • Shane Bailey
  • Sylvia Taylor
  • Michelle Sweeney
  • Larry Sorapuru, Jr.
  • Shondrell Perrilloux

Sheriff —

  • Jarrett Vicknair
  • Incumbent Sheriff Mike Tregre

Clerk of Court —

  • Kent St. Amant
  • Felicia Feist

Parish Council —

  • Marcel Belvin Jr. (District 2)
  • Thaddeus “Scooter” Victor (District 7)
  • Dixie Ramirez (District 7)

During each debate, candidates had an opportunity to share in their own words why they think they are the best candidate for the office they are seeking, allowing viewers to get a sense of their values.

Chris Delpit said that when he sees a problem, he wants to come up with a solution to mitigate the problem, and that there are a lot of things in District 2 that he would like to fix.

Gregory Miller said he has served honorably for the last twelve years and has shown his ability to get things done. Miller said as senator for District 19, he will be able to continue to get levees built, lower commercial, home and automobile insurance costs and address many other problems within the district.

Marilyn Bellock said she is the best candidate for this position, and claimed that Gregory Miller does not vote in the interest of the citizens in District 19.

Albert “Ali” Burl said he wants to form a strategic planning committee to coordinate with other parishes and develop his district at the same pace.

Russell “Russ” Wise said that he has a plan for tax reform, stating that Louisiana relies too heavily on sales taxes. Wise has a plan for education reform that starts with higher pay for teachers and support workers. Wise also has a plan to fix the lack of access to daycare and preschool for young children.

Shane Bailey said that he wants to bring God back into the schools, and that he has a “natural propensity to care about others.”

Sylvia Taylor said that she has always been involved in the community, and did not get involved just for the election. According to Taylor, she has a proven track record, stating “I walked the walk, I talked the talk.”

Michelle Sweeney said that she has worked in the legal industry as a civil law notary for St. John Parish and St. Charles Parish, and that she is proud to serve the community.

Larry Sorapuru, Jr. said that he served on the council for four years, and that during his tenure he went to Washington D.C. and lobbied for the levee being built. According to Sorapuru, he is a team player, he loves his community and that he wants the best for everybody in the community.

Shondrell Perrilloux said she is not a politician, and that she chooses people over politics. According to Perrilloux, she is not perfect but she has a purpose and her work speaks for itself.

Jarrett Vicknair said that his passion for helping people spanned his whole career. According to Vicknair, he stands by what he does and that he stands by his word, and that many people have thanked him for what he has done for them as a deputy.

Mike Tregre said that he has 35 years in law enforcement under his belt, and that everything he said he would do eleven years ago when he campaigned to be sheriff has been done.

Kent St. Amant said that he is a leader, and that a good leader leads by example. St. Amant said he has all the ammunition to fix the Clerk of Court’s office, which he believes is broken now.

Felicia Feist said that she has a servant’s heart, and the Clerk of Court is a public servant. Working in the office for 23 years has allowed her to know the needs of people, and that she is always ready and willing to help them. Feist said that she is qualified for the position, and that with the upcoming presidential election, she is the best person for the job because of her experience.

Marcel Belvin Jr. said he sees a lot of problems in District 2 and St. John Parish as a whole. Belvin said he is running so the people of District 2 can have someone they can call on at all times, and be a voice for the voiceless.

Thaddeus “Scooter” Victor said that he wants to see a better future for his two year old son, which in part inspired his decision to run for Parish Council. According to Victor, he will bring young ideas, fresh energy, passion and transparency to the seat.

Dixie Ramirez said she has been a resident of District 7 for 44 years, and that she knows the problems the district faces. According to Ramirez, keeping businesses in the parish and bringing in new business is one of her top priorities.

To hear each candidates answers to specific questions asked by Butler, the live stream video of the debate is up in its entirety on Antoine Jasmine’s Facebook page.