Thursday, February 21, 2013

District 79 Candidates Face Off Again

The four candidates running to fill the remainder of former District 79 State Rep. Tony Ligi’s term in Baton Rouge faced off again Wednesday night at the Kenner City Park Pavillion.

The event, sponsored by the Louisiana Federation of Republican Women along with the Greater New Orleans Tea Party, NOLA Patriots and CrimeFighters, featured an extensive array of questions and topics but no real contrast among the candidates.
The four candidates, all Republican, are:

- Allison Bent Bowler, the Chief Financial Officer of Benjamin Franklin High School and daughter-in-law of former Harahan State Rep. Shirley Bowler. This is her first try at public office.

- Jack Rizzuto, the CEO of a family-operated hospitality business with interests in daiquiri shops and real estate. He ran unsuccessfully for the seat in 2007 receiving 20% of the vote and also lost an earlier campaign in 2003 for Jefferson Parish Council.

- Julie Stokes, a CPA and small business owner. This is her first try at public office. Stokes did qualify for the special election to serve the remainder of Terry McCarthy's seat as Kenner Councilman-At-Large in 2005 but withdrew from the race after qualifying.

- Paul Villalobos, an Attorney and also a first time candidate.

The candidates

- agreed that the State Department of Education should not be disbanded (Villalobos called it a “Ludicrous” idea);

- agreed that the state should set standards for local school boards to follow;

- agreed that the development of Laketown was a great opportunity for Kenner (“A family friendly alternative to the French Quarter,” according to Stokes while Rizzuto noted that he had the endorsement of Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni and Jefferson Parish District 4 Councilman Ben Zahn and “They know that I will work hard for Laketown”.);

- agreed that mandating E-Verify was good and that illegal immigrants should not be given amnesty (“We have a process and should uphold the law,” Bowler said);

and all were clueless regarding the United Nations Agenda 21 initiatives.
All agreed that they have not heard enough details regarding Governor Jindal’s plan to eliminate the state income tax in favor of increasing the state sales tax with Stokes stating, “Let me be clear: I have neither supported or opposed the Governor’s plan”. Stokes did suggest a centralized State sales tax collection office  while Bowler said that she is opposed to the Governor’s plan, in part, because of the proposed loss of business incentives.

When asked about assistance to businesses in the District, Rizzuto discussed the decline of the Esplanade Mall and the need to improve the mall. “In Kenner, we have a mall that is dying on the vine”, Rizzuto said, while Villalobos reiterated that business retention was as important as securing new businesses.
After the forum, CrimeFighters, the only group participating that endorses candidates, endorsed Rizzuto. He is also endorsed by the Alliance For Good Government, the Louisiana Restaurant Association and a myriad of elected officials including Kenner Mayor Yenni, Police Chief Steve Caraway, both Jefferson Parish Councilmen-At-Large, and Sheriff Newell Normand. Stokes is endorsed by the Jefferson Parish Republican Party, business groups including the Jefferson Chamber and LABI, along with State Senator Conrad Appel (R-Metairie) and former State Rep. Ligi.  

Early voting continues through Saturday with the primary on Saturday, March 2nd.  District 79 encompasses part of North Metairie (north of West Esplanade and west of the Suburban Canal) and North Kenner from West Esplanade north to the Lake.